Henry Purcell's short opera Dido and Aeneas, concise and seemingly perfect in its proportions, has the kind of simplicity that stirs disagreement over interpretation. This release by Britain's period-instrument Armonico Consort goes toward one extreme, but its sheer high spirits are likely to find favor with everyone except for those who like a very sober approach to the opera. Some might think of director Christopher Monks as a kind of British counterpart to the Italian musicians who have been bringing crackling high energy to Baroque opera and instrumental music. Here is a performance that emphasizes not only the tragedy, but also the low comedy in Purcell's score, and if the antics of the witches' trio are a bit broad, listeners can be assured they won't be bored. Ultimately Dido and Aeneas stands or falls on its Dido, and here the news is very good: mezzo-soprano Rachael Lloyd brings a profoundly human quality to the role. There have, to be sure, been bigger voices in the part, but given the modest confines of the work's original performance Lloyd's dimensions are probably preferable, especially in a reading that aspires to historically informed performance. Beyond its individual beauties, this is a performance that hangs together in an indefinable but very satisfying way.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Dido and Aeneas|