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Tag: Troy

“Dido and Aeneas” – Henry Purcell


         “The Meeting of Dido and Aeneas (1766)

                       Nathaniel Dance-Holland


despite difficulties with the presentation – 
a French production of an English opera 
supplying Spanish, I think, subtitles – this
Dido and  Aeneas is not only the best
version of it I’ve found, but one of the 
very best opera productions I’ve come
across, period

Dido is the queen of Carthage who, having 
fallen in love with Aeneas, a prince of Troy
bent on creating a new commemorative city, 
forsakes her very husband for this heroic 

Aeneas in turn will leave her, to follow his 
mission of founding Rome, Dido will not 
survive his departure 

ah, Belinda, I am pressed with torment not
to be confessed,  she cries, when she fears
her entanglement with so mighty a hero
will come to an unfortunate end, peace 
and I are strangers grown, she determines

figures in dark clothes in the production
are obviously up to no good, one most
evidently a sorceress, they cast a spell
on the fraught conjunction that the 
lovers cannot at all resist

away, away, Dido exclaims, enraged by
Aeneas’ mere hesitation, no, faithless
man, thy course pursue, she cries, for
’tis enough, no matter whate’er you 
now decree, that you had once the  
thought of leaving me, though Jove,
god of gods, had himself ordained that 
Aeneas pursue his original intention, 
to found the Eternal City, the Rome  
he would choose over her  

for Dido, there is no turning back

thy hand, Belinda, she of her trusted
confidante in those final moments 
requests, darkness shades me, on 
thy bosom let me rest, more I would 
but Death invades me, Death is now 
a welcome guest 

the asp has, in a metaphorical word, 
been cast

remember me, she thereupon moans 
and that for the very ages, remember, 
me, but, ah, forget my fate

last night I was Dido, watch, so can 

angels then appear, in the form of, 
granted, extras here, to accompany
her to a peaceful and immortal end,  
much as they did our own Princess 
Diana when she suffered a similar

may they both inform our progress


psst: a spoken preamble is not part of the 
         original text, nor did I find it especially 
         pertinent, however splendidly it might
         have been executed

“The Trojan Women” – Euripides

the purpose of any art essentially is to either
inform or entertain, preferably both together,
therefore comedy would be associated with
entertaining whereas tragedy with informing
and, as such, this last would be perhaps more
intellectually demanding, so be it 
the strength nevertheless of great tragedy is in
its level of delivering immediacy and fascination,
which is to say entertainment, of great comedy
its obverse, insight  
The Trojan Women” was written in 415 BC by
Euripides, a tragedian at the very summit still,
2400 years later, count them, of remarkable 
historical achievement 
the war with Troy had taken place a full 800
hundred years earlier, Homer had written the
alternate Bible to our Western civilization,
The Iliad“, still with Proust to my mind the
very summit of our Occidental accomplishment,  
resonating across the ages as powerfully as
even the pyramids, extraordinary to read,
from about, again count them, astounding
millennia, nearly unimaginable centuries, 
850 BC  
Helen had been abducted from Sparta, according
to that side of the story, by Paris, the son of King
Priam of Troy, she had been whisked away not
unwillingly according to that prince of that city,
from where she became known to us as Helen of
Troy, rather than of her original Sparta
the Trojan War ensued
the Trojans were creamed by the Achaeans, the
Greeks, the Spartans, interchangeable terms,
under Menelaus, king of Sparta, and his brother,
Agamemnon, older brother, and king of Mycenae,
the greater incorporating kingdom   
the Trojan women remain to pay the price of
war, after so many centuries still their horror is
vivid, nor do we need to look far for equivalent
modern instances, they were all slaughtered or
enslaved, ‘nough, or maybe not ‘nough, said 
here we get perhaps the best interpretation
we’ll ever see, with a cast we’ll probably not
in a long while again put together – Katharine
Hepburn in perhaps her greatest role – “Once
I was queen in Troy”, she says, and you will
profoundly believe her – Vanessa Redgrave
doesn’t get ever much better as she reaches
chthonically, which is to say from the very
entrails of her earth, her soul, for a cry of
anguish you are not likely to ever forget – 
Geneviève Bujold, a mad Cassandra, and
Irene Papas, the very incarnation of the
most beautiful woman in the world
all tear up the screen in their moments,
leaving you breathless and helpless before
their art and evocative power, only Helen,
because of her beauty, insidiously manages
in the story to reasonably comfortably
survive, making mincemeat meanwhile
out of her big bad, he would have it, 
Helen had been the gift to Paris, who’d had
to choose among the goddesses, Hera, Athena,
Aphrodite, which of these was the most
beautiful, but only when Aphrodite had bribed
him with the gift of the most beautiful woman
in the world instead of from either other deity
power and glory, had he chosen Helen
the other two of course reponded with the
devastation at Troy, Olympians were not prone
to be easy, Christian mercy would find in that
pagan unequivalency propitious ground 
wonderful rendering of the traditional Greek
chorus – the Greek version of back-up girls,
“doo-wop, doo-wop” or “she loves him, she
loves him” – commenting on the tempestuous
one of my favourite ever films