It was the first great English opera and, much as I admire Birtwistle and Adès, its only real challenger has been Britten’s Peter Grimes which made its debut in 1945. That’s a long time between masterpieces.
So here are Sarah Connolly as Dido and Lucy Crowe as Belinda in the final scene, the aria “When I Am Laid in Earth”, also known as “Dido’s Lament”. You can see the classic Janet Baker version from Glyndebourne in 1966 here, but I reckon this, from the Royal Opera House in 2009, is even finer: we live in a golden age of opera singing. It’s a long story but here’s the skinny: Dido has killed herself because her man done gone, and these are her dying words:
Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
When I am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.