“When I am Laid in Earth” on YouTube (Or, 3 ways for Dido to die)

I was looking around for recordings of the Purcell songs I am now working on (“What can we poor females do” and “Music for a while”) and I found these three interesting takes on Dido’s final scene in Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas”.

The first is the most innovative. It is performed by the Swingle Singers. I really like the jazz take on the music–isn’t it neat how human sorrow translates across styles and centuries?

This second one may be the most famous version, performed by Janet Baker. I had never performed this piece as a request and an apology to Belinda (Dido’s sister) but I always sang it to all of Dido’s subjects. Here Janet Baker performs a much more personal version which branches off into a more general appeal.

I couldn’t figure out what language the aria is being translated into–maybe an eastern European or Asian language? I like how much she plays with the notes here.

The one thing I did not like in all of the version I found was that Dido is always in fancy delicate clothes. Now, having read The Aeneid in English and Latin, there is no doubt in my mind that Dido was a fighter if not a Warrior Queen. She single-handedly forged a colony out of the wilderness for her and her people to live in peace away from her brother. She is not the kind of woman to be wearing little wispies of nothing or a huge frilly hoop skirt–not with a country to run and battles to fight. The whole point was how devastating different her lovesickness for Aeneas was from her usual habits.

Anyhoo, other than a disturbing trend to make Dido excessively fem, I liked all of these videos and hope you do as well!

Inspirational Quote:

Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning. – Bill Gates


  1. Do you mean the subtitles in the third video, by your question “maybe an eastern European or Asian language”?
    The subtitles are Dutch, and the video is taken from Dutch television.
    The singer is Xenia Meijer, a well known Dutch mezzo-soprano who teaches singing at the Brabant Conservatory in Tilburg: http://www.xeniameijer.nl

  2. Thank you so much Jens-Erik! It’s great to know where the video is from and what the subtitles are. Thanks!

  3. It’s my pleasure if my note is of some avail for you.
    At first glance when reading your question that tentatively located the Netherlands in eastern Europe or in Asia, I was reminded of an article in the New York Times: “Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?”, by Patricia Cohen, February 14, 2008.
    In this article we are told about a young woman in a game show who takes Europe for a country and confuses Hungary with hungry.
    I hope you will excuse this association which is rather paradoxal since your blog here is pleasantly the opposite of being hostile to knowledge.

    Ms. Cohen in her article mentions the book “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby which is well suited to foster the prejudices that we Europeans might have about the prevalence of ignorance in the USA.
    Concerning ignorance: instead of having read this book before talking about it, I have only read the appropriate book review in the New York Times (by Michiko Kakutani, March 11, 2008) and an opinion article by Nicholas Kristof (NYT, March 30, 2008) who mentions the book.

  4. A technical remark: Some pseudo smart computer programme on the server that drives this web site has mistakenly transformed, in the preceeding text, the year 2008 followed by a right parenthesis into the year 200 followed by a smiley.

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