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date: 17 November 2019

Dido, Queen of Carthagelocked

  • Jane Girdham

Extract

Mainpiece opera in three acts by Stephen Storace to a libretto by Prince Hoare after Pietro Metastasio’s Didone abbandonata (see Didone abbandonata); London, King’s Theatre in the Haymarket, 23 May 1792.

When Storace’s Dido was performed in 1792 it was the first full-length all-sung English opera to be produced in London for more than 20 years. It was also Storace’s only serious opera. A complete libretto was published by the theatre for the première, but the music is lost. The work ran for only five performances and received much adverse criticism, most of it directed at the long recitatives and the total length of the opera. That the recitative was drastically shortened after the first night did not appease critics or audiences, who preferred spoken dialogue. Dido was produced by the Drury Lane company at the King’s Theatre, to which it moved while its own theatre was being rebuilt. Storace may have been prompted to compose an all-sung opera because the King’s Theatre had bette acoustics for singing than for speech. He wrote the title role for the German soprano Gertrud Elisabeth Mara, and used two of his regular singers for the other main characters, Anna Maria Crouch in the breeches role of Aeneas (soprano) and Michael Kelly as Iarbas (tenor)....

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