Dido and Aeneas
His Italian contemporaries will have been surprised at the artistry of the Protestant north when they heard George Frideric Handel’s first important sacred work, the Dixit Dominus HWV 232, completed in Rome when he was a young man from Halle aged 22. Handel’s seldom performed masterpiece revels in almost overwhelmingly rich sonorities and closes with the powerful final chorus “Gloria patri et Filio” in a rushing whirlwind of contrapuntal virtuosity. Dido and Aeneas, the opera by Henry Purcell – hailed as “Orpheus Britannicus” – is one of the most important Baroque pieces of musical drama. Instead of Greek gods, there are witches, so beloved of 17th-century Restoration theatre, who hasten Aeneas’ departure and exult in it with their wild Witches’ Dance, complete with thunder sheet, and an Echo Dance of the Furies. Both works can be heard in the Berlin Philharmonie performed by the period-instrument ensemble Musica Aeterna and featuring Nuria Rial, one of the finest Baroque singers of her generation, as well as Anna Prohaska, who regularly captivates audiences with her bell-clear, expressive voice. On the podium is Teodor Currentzis (former assistant to Yuri Temirkanov), who as artistic director of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre (one of Russia’s most important, along with the Bolshoi, Mariinsky and Novosibirsk) is among Russia’s most influential young conductors.