Dido and Aeneas: a synopsis in pictures
'Dido and Aeneas' by Henry Purcell documents the story of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the Prince of Troy, Aeneas. Based on book IV of Virgil’s epic poem, ‘The Aeneid’, Purcell’s opera is his first and only all-sung work.
1. Dido in the royal court
Dido, Queen of Carthage, is in her royal court, with her attendants. Belinda, her sister and handmaid, attempts to comfort her, believing her love affair with Trojan prince Aeneas is the cause of her grief.
2. Belinda advises Dido
Belinda believes the troubles in Carthage could be solved if Dido and Aeneas married, but Dido believes falling in love will make her a weak monarch.
3. The Sorceress plots to destroy Dido
As we approach Act II, the Sorceress plots the destruction of Carthage. She plans to send her trusted elf to Aeneas, disguised as the winged god, Mercury, to convince him to leave Dido. The Sorceress believes Dido will die from grief if Aeneas leaves.
4. The Sorceress conjures a storm
The Sorceress and the two Witches conjure a storm so Dido, who is hunting in the woods, will be forced to return to her palace.
5. Dido and Aeneas hunt in the grove
Meanwhile, Dido and Aeneas are hunting in the grove, making the most of its beauty. Dido hears thunder and prepares to find shelter. Aeneas is greeted by the Sorceress’ elf, in disguise as Mercury.
6. An elf disguised as Mercury appears to Aeneas
Aeneas believes the elf is actually Mercury, who advises him to found a new city of Troy. Aeneas agrees to follow what he believes to be the wishes of the gods, and decides to leave Dido. Photo: Kasey-Samuel Adams
7. The sailors prepare to depart
The sailors sing as the Trojan fleet prepares to depart. The Sorceress outlines her plans to destroy Aeneas while he’s at sea.
8. Aeneas defies the gods
Aeneas returns, having decided to ignore the advice from the gods. Dido is still distraught, and she rejects Aeneas for ever thinking about leaving her.
9. Dido dies
Dido forces Aeneas to leave, and proclaims that she must die now Aeneas has gone. The chorus sing, asking cupids to scatter rose petals on her tomb.