dido notes part 2

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AS Level Music Set Works
LOVE & LOSS
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Whilst we don’t need to analyze the Opera in huge detail, it helps to
understand some of the forms of the more important arias and movements.
SCENE 1
No. 1 – Shake the Cloud
Belinda sings a short aria (accompanied by continuo) to cheer Dido up.
From the first word, Purcell sets the text to music by word-painting –
the dotted rhythm lending a ‘shakiness’ to the word ‘shake’.
Similarly the word ‘flowing’ has a long flowing setting.
The chorus (who act as commentators in the opera) then take up a
homophonic chorus to emphasize the message.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Whilst we don’t need to analyze the Opera in huge detail, it helps to
understand some of the forms of the more important arias and movements.
SCENE 1
No. 2 - “Ah! Belinda”
This aria is in C Minor to depict angiush and the tragedy of Dido’s situation.
Time Signature = 3/4
Form = AABCB
Style = Declamatory Air/Aria
Sung by = Dido
First Section = AA
4 Bar Ground Bass, played 21 times throughout song.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
First Section (AA Continued):
4 Bar Ground Bass, played 21 times throughout song.
Purcell uses the same harmonic pattern - repeated every 4 bars
ending with a strong V-I cadence (except for 2 repetitions in the
dominant key, the 12 and 13th repeat).
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Opening Phrases
The first vocal phrase contains the words “Ah! Belinda” and lasts 4 bars:
The second vocal phrase contains the words “I am prest with
torment” and lasts 3 bars:
The shortening of the second phrase to 3 bars lends weight to the word
‘prest’ as the notes are literally pressed into a smaller space.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Opening Phrases
The third vocal phrase contains both couplets (“Ah! Belinda I am prest with
torment not to be confest”) and lasts 9 bars:
These differing phrase lengths serve to OFFSET the repetition of the Ground
Bass pattern of 4 bars. Notice how they start in differing bars of the ground bass.
All 3 phrases are then repeated forming the AA part of the structure.
NOTICE how Dido’s vocal line is MUCH grander then Belinda’s – which
fits her status.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Opening Phrases
These differing phrase lengths serve to OFFSET the repetition of the Ground
Bass pattern of 4 bars in the AA section of the aria.
Second Section of the Song:
This section forms the round BCB part of the structure.
The first phrase is 4 bars long, and begins one bar BEFORE the ground bass
pattern:
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Second Section of the Song:
The second phrase repeats, although note how, as Dido and Peace become
strangers, so too does the melody line and ground bass, which were together
in the previous phrase.
The next phrase is four bars long (the C section) and coincides with the
bass which has now been transposed to the DOMINANT.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Second Section of the Song:
This phrase is then repeated, with a very long melisma on the word
LANGUISH, which serves to emphasise the meaning of the word.
The aria finishes with a double lined repetition of the phrase “Peace and I are
strangers grown” to give it a sense of finishing, which also coincides with the
Cadence in the Ground Bass.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 1
No. 3 - “Grief increases by Concealing”
This recitative (sung by Belinda, with one interjection by Dido) follows
immediately from the end of the previous aria.
It opens sparsely accompanied (recitativo secco) and then becomes more
closely accompanied (recitativo accompagnato)
Belinda here exposes Dido’s secret desire for Aeneas. The chorus, yet
again commenting, enter with “when monarchs unite”.
In a cheerful, homophonic chorus – they
comment that such a marriage
would be desirable politically.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 1
No. 5 - “Whence could so much Virtue Spring”
Dido reveals that she might just harbour feelings for Aeneas, and paints a
picture of a brave, yet sensitive, hero. This is especially evident in the
contrast of Purcell’s setting of the words “valour”, with a forte
melisma...
and “soft”, with a sudden piano line.
This is followed by Belinda, and the ‘spokeswoman’ from the chorus,
joining in a duet reassuring Dido that Aeneas will love her just as
much. (“Fear no danger, to ensue”).
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 1
No. 6 – “Fear no Danger to Ensue”
After the opening section duet, the chorus join in, to emphasise the point.
Purcell often includes some ‘balletic’ writing in the songs. The most obvious
example of this is this Duet and Chorus Fear No Danger to Ensue - it is the
most ‘Frenchified’ of the numbers in the opera with its lilting dance style:
Note also in this duet and chorus, the inclusion of G Minor - Dido’s death key
- which seems cruelly ironic in a song celebrating the triumph of her final
acceptance of love.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 2
No. 7 – “See See Your Royal Guest Appears”
This recitative begins in a simple style – with Belinda heralding the arrival
of Aeneas with a fanfare-like pattern based on a C Major triad.
Aeneas’ first line in the opera is to immediately flirt with Dido “When,
Royal fair, shall I be blest…?”
Dido still tries to hold his advances at bay, however: “Fate forbids what
you pursue”, answered by Aeneas (surely the greatest pick-up line
ever!): “Aeneas has no fate but you…” – suggesting he will abandon
his mission (given by the Gods) to rebuild Troy.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 2
No. 8 – “Cupid Only Throws the Dart”
This chorus (another commentary from them) begins with imitative
entries from Soprano
down to Bass. It is in
E minor, and they are
singing about the
power of love (as it
here has postponed
Aeneas mission to
rebuild Troy).
After intricately weaving
a polyphonic passage
the chorus comes
together for a
homophonic ending to
the chorus.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 2
No. 9 – “If not for mine, for Empire’s sake”
Aeneas, in this recitative, is pleading his case for Dido’s love. Purcell
assures us that things are going well in this quest, by taking us back from
E minor to G Major at the end of this short passage.
Note the very strong word-painting on the word fall.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 2
No. 10 – “Pursue Thy Conquest”
This continuo Aria (sung by Belinda, who lends the final encouragement to
Dido to fall in love) begins with a descending scale and cadence into the
home-key for this second scene (C Major):
Belinda confirms in this aria Dido’s unspoken response with the words “her
eyes confess the flame her tongues denies”.
Act one ends with cheerful celebration – a Triumphing Dance in C Major.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
SCENE 6
No. 37 “When I am Laid in Earth”
(Dido’s Lament)
This aria is in G Minor and is the masterpiece of the Opera.
Time Signature = 3/2
Form = AB (Binary)
Style = Lament
Sung by = Dido
First Section = A
The ground bass is UNUSUAL as it is irregular (5 bars) in length.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
First Section = A
The ground bass patterns descends CHROMATICALLY through a 4th
It then makes a cadence leap through the lower octave of G minor.
Over the ground bass, the vocal phrase is 9 bars on length:
Notice how the vocal line strives continually UPWARDS over the
chromatic descending nature of the ground bass, depicting the struggle
of Dido as she succumbs to her impending fate.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
First Section = A
The A section - “When I am laid in earth may my wrongs create no
trouble for the breast” is repeated.
Second Section = B
The second section is the setting of the words “Remember me! But ah!
Forget my fate”.
Notice how this begins on a D, and hovers around the D, creating tension as
D is the dominant note of the G Minor key of the aria. It therefore lends
expectation to the sound.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Second Section = B
This expectation is realised when finally, on the 3rd desperate
“Remember me!” the melody line leaps up to a high G (the tonic).
Then, as her final statement (repeated), Dido sings a descending
diatonic scale, ending on the tonic G, cadencing with the ground bass:
Note the repeat is NOT in the score.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Second Section = B
As Dido dies (in the instrumental at the end of the lament), the violins
play the full descending chromatic scale from G down to G (ending on
the first chord of the final chorus “With Drooping Wings”.
This full G minor descending chromatic scale provides one of the most
beautiful and heart-rending moments in opera, as Dido lays down for
the last time.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Examples from Dido’s Lament of Purcell’s mastery of his art:
• The ground bass repeats strictly, whilst the vocal line varies, avoiding
dull repetition.
• Purcell successfully combines both chromatic and diatonic scales
• Purcell creates a sense of the impending demise by including the
descending chromatic scale, but NEVER in its full form (throughout the
aria it ends on D, the dominant, rather than the tonic). UNTIL the final
descending chromatic scale in the violins, which is fully stated down to
the tonic, giving the sense of final realization of the moment to which
the aria has been building up.
• The vocal line never cadences with the ground bass until the end of
Dido’s vocal line, when she dies. It is simple, magic musical writing.
Other repeating features….
Other examples of Purcell’s compositional style:
Dance Movements
There are two reasons why Purcell has included dance-music in his
Opera.
1) The fashion in France at the time was for ‘balletic’ operas, and Purcell
clearly includes some influence of this in Dido & Aeneas.
The opera includes several dance movements. Sometimes the music for a
chorus is repeated and, instead of singing, the chorus dance, and sometimes
there is a whole separate dance movement.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Dance Movements
The Triumphing Dance (No. 12), The Echo Dance of Furies (No. 21) in the
cave scene and the Sailor's Dance at the harbour (No. 29) are examples of
this. It is thought that there was more dance music to start with, but some of it
was lost.
2) The second reason for Purcell’s inclusion of dance is that the opera was
written as a commission for a London Girls’ School by a Mr Josias Priest,
who was the dance master - therefore it was felt a lot of dance movements
were appropriate. It is thought that, because it was written for a Girls’ School,
the Tenor and Bass parts were added in a later revision of the score.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
The rhythmic setting of “Fear no Danger to Ensue” with crotchet minim - minim - crotchet (alternating the stress on 1st and 3rd beats) is
almost identical to Jean-Baptiste Lully’s “Ballet des nations” and “Les
adamants magnifigues”. Lully was a French baroque composer.
Word Painting
Purcell believed that music is “the exaltation
of poetry” and he displays this often in has clever
setting of Tate’s text.
Melismas offer performers great opportunity for personal expression. Purcell
writes complex melismas to emphasise key words such as torment, pity, and
sorrow.
Example from No. 36 - Word: Darkness
from “Thy Hand Belinda”.
ANALYSIS OF THE OPERA
Word Painting
In “Whence Could So Much Virtue Spring” (No. 5) Purcell colours words
such as “storm”:
….and also “fierce”:
These contrast with “soft” in the
same recitative with its ‘p’ marking
and sighing descending semitone:
And that’s Dido & Aeneas, in a nutshell. :-)
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