The 2017 Ambronay European Baroque Academy

The 22nd Ambronay European Baroque Academy will be conducted by Paul Agnew, who for the first time will take on the musical direction, staging and educational supervision.

For this occasion, the associate conductor of Les Arts Florissants has put together a beautiful programme inspired by the story of Dido. As an appetiser he presents us with extracts from the opera Didon by Henry Desmarest, and for the main course the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell.
The love story between the Queen of Carthage and the Trojan warrior inspired the great English composer Purcell to create a timeless work which is still performed today on the world’s greatest operatic stages.
Its modest proportions (less than an hour long with a reduced orchestra) make it the ideal subject for a training project for young musicians. The music is superb from start to finish – from its overture ‘a la française’ to Dido’s final lament ‘When I am laid in earth’. The work is musically varied, constantly alternating between arias, duets, choruses and instrumental dances, and is a theatrical gem which allows the singers to express themselves both vocally and theatrically.

The Academy will be composed of 9 singers and 12 musicians including the duo Repicco.

To open the programme, Paul Agnew has chosen several extracts from Desmarest’s Didon. This tragic opera is rarely performed but was very well received at its premiere at the Académie Royale de Musique in 1693, only four years after Purcell’s opera. The music is beautiful and the libretto offers to its principal performer a formidable portrait of a woman. This performance is the public dissemination of an education project bringing together the young musicians taking part in this Academy. These young virtuosos — selected from among the best in Europe — will work on the two pieces in the programme during an intensive rehearsal period first at Ambronay Cultural Encounter Centre (France) and then in Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia (Italy). The musicians will undertake an in-depth study of expressivity, theatricality and rhetoric as well as the technical demands of this repertoire.