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Dover Publications, 1995 - Music - 89 pages
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"The more it is studied the more confidently can we assert its flawlessness as one of the masterpieces of music-drama." -- Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians
When English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) wrote Dido and Aeneas, opera was not yet publicly performed in London. Indeed, although Purcell was already recognized as one of London's most distinguished musicians and composers, the debut performance of Dido and Aeneas was not in the kind of grand theater we now associate with opera. It took place at "Josias Priest's Boarding-School at Chelsey...Perform'd by Young Gentlewomen," possibly as early as 1680.
In time, sparkling miniature opera, filled with intense drama and elegant song, would dazzle theater audiences around the world. It remains the oldest English operatic work still regularly performed.
Dido and Aeneas lasts little more than an hour, yet encompasses a broad range of expressive music, from a high-spirited sailors' dance to one of the most touching of all operatic arias, Dido's lament, "When I am laid in earth." This brilliant work, by the greatest English composer of his time, is presented here in an authoritative early full-score edition.

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About the author (1995)

Born in Westminster, England, Henry Purcell is considered by many experts to be that country's finest native-born composer. Purcell's musical career began at the age of 10, when he joined the choir of London's Chapel Royal, where he remained a member until he was 14 years old. While a choirboy, he was taught to play the organ by his mentor, Dr. John Blow, the chapel's choirmaster and also the organist at Westminster Abbey. In 1677 Purcell was appointed composer for the king's band, and two years later he was named organist at Westminster Abbey, where he remained until his death. As a composer, Purcell proved to be a master of lyrical melody and of combining it with harmonic invention and counterpoint. Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1689) is regarded by many as the finest opera ever written in English. It shows his skill as a dramatist, contrapuntist, and melodist. The opera also highlights the way in which he was able to incorporate other musical elements, including ones from seventeenth-century English theater, into his own musical style. Among Purcell's many other works are odes for chorus and orchestra, cantatas, songs, anthems, chamber sonatas, and harpsichord suites. Especially notable are The Fairy Queen (1692), a masque, or dramatic composition, based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; the music for King Arthur (1691), a drama written by John Dryden and "Sound the Trumpets," a birthday ode for King James II.

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