1) “When I am laid in Earth” is magnificent when sung by Andreas Scholl. I think Sarah Connolly still has the advantage just for sheer power since she’s a mezzo (and an unbelievably fantastic one), but he does a wonderful job with it.
2) It’s still a bit *shrug* for me, beautiful as it is, just because of the story. I’m a bit allergic to “then the chick kacked herself over some guy” as a general rule. I can still, forty years later, hear my father rolling his eyes when he was talking about Madama Butterfly and saying, “Then what does she do? She kills herself? Over some asshole!” It took a lot to make my father roll his eyes at Puccini, but that crossed the line. He loved the music. So did my mother. But the story just went too far, even for a genre known for its serial female death. (Only women died of tuberculosis, did you know that?)
So the general story of “Dido and Aeneas” tends to get up my nose. Even at the end, when he decides he’ll defy the gods and stay with the woman he loves, her reply amounts to, “No! This is an opera! These people paid to see some chick kill herself, and by god, they’re going to get it!” Come on.
So yes, beautiful music, but I think I’ll give the opera itself a pass. I’m glad opera took two hundred years to resettle on that sort of unfortunate gobbledegook.
I’m also trying hard to be surprised at the fact that Scholl’s decision to do this is something he feels he needs to defend. Legions of women have sung “Ombra mai fu” for years. This is absolutely no different. Of course, I’m really not surprised at all, which is why my love for opera tends to stick most profoundly to Haendel’s work, where the bad guys die, the lovers are reunited, the heroines do not pay for someone else’s crimes with their lives, and the heroes are often quite decent human beings.