Dido and Aeneas is a form of opera written by Henry Purcell. It was first performed in 1689 at the girls' school in Chelsea, Great Britain. Dido and Aeneas is one of the oldest operas in the UK historically.
Dido and Aeneas is a love story. In the story, the Queen of Carthage, Dido, falls in love with Aeneas. Aeneas has come to Carthage from Troy after having escaped from the Trojan War. However, a bunch of witches in Carthage resenting Dido manipulate this situation to hurt her. This makes Aeneas abandon Dido. It is a real heartbreak for her leading her to commit a suicide. Dido and Aeneas is a unique opera of that period because, unlike other operas of that time, here one of the main actors dies.
Purcell has employed the use of a key structure in this opera for a number of reasons. The key structure has been clearly illustrated or demonstrated through the use of minor and major keys. Major keys are applied to bring out the happy mood to the play. On the other hand, minor keys are used to trigger the melancholic state.
A number of major and minor keys in the opera are as follows: initially, Dido is afraid that her love for Aeneas will make her a weak monarch. Belinda, her sister, tries to calm and cheer her up but her heart is saturated with sorrow. Belinda is conscious of the source of sadness that her sister has. These are Dido's feelings for Aeneas. She thinks that the only remedy to end her sister's emotional tribulations is through the marriage between these two ones. Dido’s sadness from this section of opera denotes a “C” minor key structure. Dido and her sister continue talking; Belinda convinces Dido that this is the great love. At first, in the court, Dido treats Aeneas coldly though later her cold heart warms up. She gets confirmed that Aeneas has the same love feelings to her; this creates a happy environment or rather a mood of happiness. This is denoted by the “C” major key structure. Later in the story, the witches plan to make Dido suffer. They send a “trusted elf” pretending to be Mercury, a character that would truly influence on Aeneas. This would make Aeneas travel to Italy leaving Dido alone with the broken heart. This makes the key change from “C” major to “E” major.
Dido and Aeneas are presented by two types of ground bass arias. The ground bass in a musical drama is a bass line repeating itself from time to time, while the other top parts are being dynamic. The ground bass does not change bringing a repetitive structure. This brings the rhythm which enhances an aesthetic appeal of opera. This helps to create the liking of this dramatic piece moving on and intertwining between phrases while repeating the ground bass. This instills the sense of unity. The commonly or frequently used aria from Dido and Aeneas are: when Dido says, “When am laid in earth”, and ”Ah! Belinda”.
As it can be seen from the dramatic arena, a number of popular songs have applied the technique to enhance their aesthetic touch to the audience. For instance, Handel’s Chaconne employs the idea of ground bass. Canon by Pachabel's is another musical entity which employs ground bass. Ground bass is important when encapsulated in musical pieces as it helps to bring about harmony and creates a rhythm.
Emma Kirkby is a good musical piece that brings out the melancholic mood of the opera Dido and Aeneas through the use of aria. A number of aspects display this as the tonal variation is the first dramatic technique triggering or evoking the sad mood in the play. Emma Kirkby varies the tone by raising the pitch and sequentially lowering IT. This has also been catalyzed by some instances where she is being silent for some time to show the sad mood of events in the musical piece. The aria is also given a bastion by body movements. Emma moves slowly in her presentation with body movements rhyming with her tonal variations. The facial expressions also support the aria in bringing out the sombre mood of the play. She shows a wrinkled face as a sign of cry. Emma Kirkby is a version of aria has that it takes to evoke or show the mood and emotions in the play. Notably, the Baroque period instruments have been used in the play. Baroque instruments refer to the musical instruments used during the period of Baroque. Baroque orchestra is a type of orchestra that thrived during 1600 to 1750. During this period, some of musical instruments used included violins, bassoons, flutes among others. Emma Kirkby has used the violin in her version of aria. This has added the aesthetic appeal or uplifted the performance of the musical piece, especially in bringing out the mood of the drama and also in creating rhythm.
Jessye Norman’s piece also tries to bring out Dido’s intense pain and suffering. This artistic piece of work does not properly capture Dido’s tribulations. Firstly, Norman's voice does not sufficiently depict the melancholic mood as it is characterized by the pitch and tone. Instead, the voice depicts rather the relaxed mood but not saturated with sadness. The body movements and facial expressions do not mirror a genuine environment of sadness. Musical instruments have tried to bring out the sad mood, but they lack the homogeneity with Norman's voice and body movements.
Alison Moyet's piece of aria is as well good. The piece of music is a polished one which reflects the modern music. The instruments used here are emitting the modern pitch and sensation being different from that in Emma Kirkby's aria. The speed of presentation is faster. Alison Moyet combines a number of modern dramatic styles to vent out the mood of play. Alison Moyet's voice has the tone and pitch bringing out the sad mood of play. Consecutively, her body movements, facial expressions and the sound of musical instruments match with her sad emitting voice. Thus, the more modern interpretation of opera has helped to bring out the mood of it in the manner being easily understood by modern audience.
Of all the three versions, the aria piece that is really captivating is the one performed by Emma Kirkby. The reason for preferring this version of aria is based on various reasons. Firstly, Emma Kirkby’s voice is the most natural one as compared to those of Jessye Norman and Alison Moyet. Emma Kirkby's voice is relaxed, and it flows smoothly and eloquently with the exact rhyming of violin’s sound. Emma Kirkby also pauses while singing during her presentation. This helps to bring out the mood of aria and also in drawing the attention from the audience. Apart from the tonal appeal of Kirkby’s aria, she also employs some visual dramatic techniques. Such vices entail her facial expressions and gestures. In the course of her presentation, someone holds her hand. This signifies that she is in a grim or sad situation, and she needs the support.
In conclusion, the opera Dido and Aeneas is a mature and perfect play. This can be drawn from its well structured and logically flowing plot together with a number of the well-organized and well-done characterizations. The opera is also unique because unlike other operas of that time one of its main characters, Dido, dies. This is significantly influences on the direction of opera. The play also employs some musical aspects. It incorporates the orchestration which entails strings and harpsichords. Other musical aspects ingrained in the play include some dance movements, key structures and ground bass arias. This opera has been very influential on music or on a dramatic sphere because many singers and actors were reciting it from time to time.
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