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In many respects this small-scale version of Purcell’s evergreen masterpiece has much to commend it. I greatly like both the one-per-part strings and single-voice chorus, the former playing under Christopher Monks with spirit and infectious rhythmic verve. The superbly sung choruses are given an apt madrigalian feel, nowhere more so than ‘With drooping wings’, sung a cappella. The effect is lovely, though not what Purcell asked for, particularly given that the final orchestral Cupid’s Dance is omitted. Otherwise this is a straightforward version that makes no attempt to solve the vexed problem of the missing dances.

The cast, too, has much to commend it. Robert Davies is a virile Aeneas with a splendidly focussed baritone, for once (nearly) overcoming the baggage that comes with the role. Elin Manahan Thomas makes for a fetching Belinda, especially charming in ‘Thanks to these lonesome vales’, while countertenor Roderick Morris’ mercifully unaffected Sorceress calls for gratitude. Special mention, too, for Eloise Irving’s delightful Second Woman. She is a young soprano to watch. No mention yet of Dido? Aye, well, there’s the rub. Rachael Lloyd makes a brave attempt on this seminal role, but I fear I’m not persuaded that it is for her. There is simply too much continuous vibrato, while musical articulation, especially of ornaments, is too often sketchy. A pity, but any Dido cruelly stands or falls on its heroine.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing