Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas Essay

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In the dedication of Henry Purcell’s opera, Dioclesian, to the Duke of Somerset, he declared, "As Poetry is the harmony of Words, so Music is that of Notes; and as Poetry is a rise above Prose and Oratory, so is Music the exaltation of Poetry. Both of them may excel apart, but sure they are most excellent when they are joined, because nothing is then wanting to either of their perfections: for thus they appear like wit and beauty in the same person." Henry Purcell was a prolific English composer of Baroque opera, church music, cantatas, instrumental works, and more. Not only did he have a vast understanding of music and composition, but he also understood the obligation to form a connection between the music and the text. Purcell’s compositional ability is demonstrated in his opera Dido and Aeneas, which contains common Baroque characteristics that define his style. Even though he used distinct “Purcell-isms” in Dido and Aeneas, there is still a definite connection to the structure of Venus and Adonis by John Blow.
Although the original purpose of Dido and Aeneas may have been that of court entertainment, it has become one of Purcell’s most widely acclaimed operas, as well as one of the most popular operas of the Baroque period. The first known performance of Dido and Aeneas was held at Mount Josias Priest’s Boarding School in Chelsea, England in 1689. Scholars such as Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock have questioned whether this performance was truly the first, or if it was a repetition of an earlier court premiere, due to the fact that John Blow’s opera Venus and Adonis was written and then debuted in 1684, around the same time as Dido and Aeneas, and they seemed to follow the same path to their first performances. B...

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