Dido and Aeneas

Dido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell, is England's oldest opera. As far as we know it was first performed in 1689, at a girl's school in Chelsea. Unfortunately, neither the original, nor any 17th Century copy of the score, survives.

The Production

  • Dates: 2nd, 3rd and 4th February 2005
  • Location: The Forum Hall
  • Time: 8pm

Dido and Aeneas is directed by Lorne Magory, conducted by Martin Read, with costumes designed by Allison Amin.

Dramatis Personae.


The opera is accompanied by strings - members of the College's Chamber Orchestra and harpsichord, played by Pam Edwards.

The Story

The story for Dido and Aeneas was adapted from part of the Aeneid by Virgil. Dido, Queen of Carthage, falls in love with Aeneas, who has landed in Carthage after fleeing from Troy after defeat in the Trojan War. However, some witches living near Carthage, who hate Dido, remind him that he is fated to go and be the founder of the Roman Empire. Aeneas leaves Dido, who is heartbroken and kills herself.

This is slightly changed from the version in the Aeneid, where there were no witches. In the Aeneid, the gods intervene to remind Aeneas of his duty.

The story is exceptional for opera of this period, because one of the major characters (Dido) dies. In most pre-19th Century opera, the hero or heroine's life may be threatened, but something usually happens to save the day by the end of the opera.