Purcell’s Dido Top of the Arias in BBC Poll

Posted on June 16, 2010

Henry Purcell’s When I am laid in Earth, from the opera Dido and Aeneas, has been named the nation’s favourite aria.

Listeners to Rob Cowan’s breakfast show on Radio 3 voted for their top aria as part of the BBC’s opera season.

It beat popular pieces by Mozart, Wagner and Puccini, among others.

“It’s touching that it’s an English rather than an Italian bel canto aria that’s won the most support,” said co-presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch.

Over the past month, listeners have been invited to email the station with their favourite arias, before an online vote was used to choose the winner. A tie resulted in the Top 10 becoming 11.

1. When I am laid in earth (Dido and Aeneas, Purcell)
2. Dove sono (Marriage of Figaro, Mozart)
3. Liebestod (Tristan and Isolde, Wagner)
4. E lucevan le stelle (Tosca, Puccini)
5. Casta diva (Norma, Bellini)
6. Song to the Moon (Rusalka, Dvorak)
7. Che faro senza Euridice? (Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck)
8. Der holle Rache (Magic Flute, Mozart)
9. Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (Zaide, Mozart)
10. Gluck das mir verblieb (Die tote Stadt, Korngold)
11. Mon coeur s’oeuvre a ta voix (Samson and Dalila, Saint-Saens)
Dido and Aeneas is Purcell’s only fully sung stage work and is one of the earliest English operas in the regular repertoire.

The aria comes at the end of the opera as Dido, Queen of Carthage, having been abandoned by the Trojan Prince Aeneas, flings herself on a funeral pyre. 

Watch Nicholas Kraemer and Stephen Johnson explore the work with members of Manchester Camerata

Read this story on the BBC Website

See the whole of the BBC Radio 3 Poll result

Read comment from Tom Service in the Guardian

During December 2008 and January 2009, 25 pupils from Chorlton High School worked with composer Richard Barnard, dramatist Anna Jewitt, Camerata musicians and vocal students from RNCM to develop a prequel to Dido and Aeneas.

Read about the Manchester Camerata project