Dido’s Lament is a piece from Dido and Aeneas, a Baroque opera written by Henry Purcell. It chronicles a love story between the two characters, which, like many operatic tales of the time, doesn’t have a happy or satisfying ending. This particular piece is the last aria sang by Dido, which outlines her distraught emotions after the catastrophic events that have taken place earlier in the story. As I was listening, I was able to feel similar emotions to what Purcell intended. The orchestration of the piece is a single vocalist with an accompaniment made up of strings and continuo. This makes the piece simpler, in a way, but also creates a sort of mysterious and ominous undertone. Oftentimes, there is a long, held note in the bass which creates tension as the vocalist continues her own melodic line. There are also several instances in which a string player is alone in between two verses, mostly playing a descending chromatic line. This is another way Purcell depicts sorrow and tension. The music has a longing quality about it, which perfectly demonstrates exactly what Dido is feeling as she sings. Additionally, the rhythm is slow and simple, which is appropriate for the aria because it is not intended to be upbeat or lively. There are very few ornaments, except for slower appoggiaturas which also contribute to the sorrowful atmosphere. The lyrics are very evocative of what she is feeling in that moment. She sings words like, “death evades me” and, “death is now a welcome guest,” suggesting that she no longer wants to live after she has endured so much pain.
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