Dido & Aeneas Synopsis
The opera opens with Dido in her court with her attendants. Belinda is trying to cheer Dido up, but Dido is full of sorrow, explaining that 'Peace and I are strangers grown'. Belinda believes the source of this grief to be the Trojan Aeneas, and suggests that Carthage's troubles could be resolved by marriage. The court rallies again, attempting to raise Dido's spirits, followed by Aeneas’ entrance to court. At first, Dido receives him coldly, but she eventually accepts his proposal of marriage.
Scene 1: The cave of the Sorceress
The Sorceress is plotting the destruction of Carthage and its queen, and calls in her companions to aid in her plot. She plans to send one of her most trusted aides, a Spirit disguised as the god Mercury, to tempt Aeneas to leave Dido and sail to Italy. The chorus join in with terrible laughter, as the witches conjure up a storm that will drive Dido and her entourage from the grove.
Scene 2: A grove during the middle of a hunt
Dido and Aeneas, accompanied by their courtiers, stop at the grove to take in its beauty and observe a festive court picnic. Suddenly, Dido hears distant thunder, prompting Belinda to tell the servants to prepare for a return to shelter as soon as possible. As everyone hurries to go, Aeneas is stopped by the Spirit, who is disguised as Mercury. This pretend Mercury brings the command of Jove that Aeneas is to wait no longer in beginning his task of creating a new Troy on Latin soil. Aeneas consents to what he believes are the gods’ wishes, but is heart-broken that he will have to leave Dido. Nonetheless, he prepares for his departure from Carthage.
The harbor at Carthage
Preparations are underway for the departure of the Trojan fleet. The sailors sing a song, which is followed by the Sorceress and her companions' sudden appearance. The group is pleased at how well their plan has worked, and the Sorceress sings a solo describing her further plans for the destruction of Aeneas "on the ocean". All the characters begin to clear the stage, and then disperse.
Dido and Belinda enter, shocked at Aeneas’ disappearance. Dido is distraught and Belinda comforts her. Suddenly Aeneas returns, but Dido is immediately suspicious that something is wrong, which his words only serve to confirm. She derides his reasons for leaving, and even when Aeneas says he will defy the gods and stay in Carthage, Dido rejects him for having thought of leaving. After Dido forces Aeneas to leave, Dido dies of a broken heart. Dido’s attendants order the "cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle as her heart."