Figure of Dido in French Drama and French Music

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Here for the first time, the various French treatments of Dido’s tragic story in both drama and music, most of which are little known today, are brought together, examined, compared, and evaluated. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the evocation of Dido’s great and fateful passion had an impact that has continued to reverberate over two millennia. Among the vast array of artistic creations that Dido has inspired are a number of French tragedies and musical works from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. This study embraces different genres and spans several centuries, demonstrates the commonalities between the works, and reveals the individuality and uniqueness of each interpretation. This study first looks at the broader European context before the French dramas, cantatas and operas are each analyzed in detail. What emerges is that there is indeed a myriad of ways to tell and interpret a story. The various interpretations show an intriguing and sometimes surprising degree of individuality on the part of these writers and composers.


“… surveyed fully and systematically all the material available, some of which is difficult to find, and provided analyses as the basis of fair and honest appraisal of these dramatic and musical works.” – Prof. Glynnis M. Cropp, Massey University

“… the most comprehensive survey to date of French dramatizations of the Dido and Aeneas story, and it is the only one to treat both the spoken tragedies and the musical versions (both cantatas and operas) … all of them of general merit and deserve to be better known, at least by scholars.” – Prof. Perry Gethner, Oklahoma State University

"Dr. Hollard is an independent scholar with a vast passion for French theatre and for French music as well as for the Latin classics, along with an encyclopaedic knowledge of European literatures and music which, together with his meticulous attention to scholarly detail, marks this book out as one of a kind. It should grace the shelves of every university library." -- Prof. Colin Anderson, Massey University

Table of Contents



Texts and conventions


Introduction: Virgil and Dido

Pre-Virgilian and Virgilian Dido

Dido’s Artistic Legacy

Part I: Dido in French Drama

Dido and the Context of French Tragedy

Jodelle: Didon se sacrifiant


Hardy: Didon se sacrifiant


Scudéry: Didon


Boisrobert: La Vraye Didon, ou la Didon chaste


Montfleury: L’Ambigu comique, ou les Amours de Didon et d’ Ænée
Montfleury’s Dramatic Experiment and its Context

Montfleury’s Tragedy


Le Franc de Pompignan: Didon


Roumégous: Didon

Part II: Dido in French Music

The French Cantata

Campra: Didon and Enée et Didon

Montéclair: La Mort de Didon

Mouret: Didon

Collin de Blamont: Didon

La Garde: Enée et Didon

Charpentier: Didon

The Emergence of French Opera

Desmarest: Didon


Piccinni: Didon


Berlioz: Les Troyens


Similarities and Variations

Approaches to Characterisation

A Final Evaluation


A. Metastasio: Didone abbandonata

B. Le Fuel de Méricourt: Didon heureuse

C. Blangini Fils: Didon



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