ad Rhenum is a one-to-a-part ensemble that lends a tremendously
intimate slant to Purcell's famous piece. That it is small does
not diminish whatsoever the effect of the emotions, and the
SACD clarity and space if anything heighten the sense of concentration.
are well-sprung throughout (just try the fast section of the
overture for example). It is vital that Dido and Belinda are
distinguishable, and there is no problem here between Nicola
Wemyss and Francine van der Heijden. Van der Heijden's light
voice at the outset ('Shake the cloud from off your brow') contrasts
with Dido's sorrow-laden 'Ah Belinda!'. The tempo moves nicely
here, and Wemyss' ornaments are tasteful. Curiously the recording
sounds a little too boomy here. Van der Heijden excels in the
Grove scene, her voice perfectly pure. Wemyss' final scene,
which makes or breaks the performance, is sad if not soul-wrenching,
her plea of 'Remember me' touching if not making the soul jangling
as, in another performance-world, Kirsten Flagstad does.
Sorceress, Helene Rasker, is rather pantomimey - not very scary,
either. But if there is a weak link it is, alas, the Aeneas
(Matthew Baker). He is not very imposing and almost every phrase
smacks of the narcissistic.
size of the chorus is in keeping with its surroundings, and
it sings with great variety, from the lusty to the doleful.
There are some fun recording effects (the 'witchy' sounds after
the Witches' Dance, for example), but this is not over-done.
Strangely the choral echoes seem too close to fully make their
effect, and the Sailors are the most polite maritime lot I have
ever heard! Of the smaller roles, Maaike Poorthuis's First
Enchantress is noteworthy.
then, even if the soloists are variable. There is much to delight
here, not least from the 'orchestra' and its all-pervasive sense