Andrew Auernheimer (weev) wrote,
Andrew Auernheimer

Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas": an Opera for trolls. @SoundOfUrchin @TheResident @fbz

A couple weeks ago I was at the flat of some new friends (Tomato, the vocals/drums for Sound of Urchin, and the RT network's The Resident) and I was introduced to an artist named Klaus Nomi. I love countertenor vocals, have seen Andreas Scholl and Phillippe Jaroussky live multiple times and think it is a tragedy that this style of male vocals does not make it into the pop culture mainstream. Klaus Nomi was a countertenor that broke somewhat into pop culture and somehow I'd never heard him before. He died of AIDS two years before I was born and maybe that had something to do with it. Tomato put on Nomi's "Encore" album. Midway through a song came on, and despite never having heard Nomi I began singing the lyrics in unison. The song was titled "Wayward Sisters" and begins with part of the libretto from my favorite English opera, which I know by heart: Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas". After they introduced me to Nomi, I introduced them to Henry Purcell and the opera Tomato had been unknowingly listening to for three decades.

I have always been a huge fan of opera. I have seen upwards of a hundred operas. I usually went to Italian or German operas. When I got to prison I no longer had the virtue of Met subtitles so I had to start being a big consumer, for the first time of my life, of English operas. This did me a huge favor, for outside of the confines I would never have been exposed to the most subversive and brilliant opera I'd ever listened to, the opera I'm discussing in this blog entry.

Purcell's Dido is an opera all about trolling. You could make only the most minor changes in the plot to make it about trolling someone on LiveJournal using XSS exploitation. In short, Dido, the Queen of Carthage, is a lulz cow. She is a crazy, whiney bitch along the lines of old LJD classics like Mediacrat. Her boyfriend, Aeneas, had just fled the ruin of Troy. After he sails to Carthage, he finds Dido and shows her how Greeks fuck and they end up falling in love. A bunch of sorceresses get together and decide to troll Dido into committing suicide. They decide to impersonate Hermes, through the summoning of an elf through magic (but could just have easily XSS'd the blog of Hermes) to appear before Aeneas and tell him to return to Troy to rebuild it. Aeneas (clearly not checking message signatures) tells Dido of his intent to depart. She throws a fit and says she's going to kill herself. Aeneas then decides to stay but she spurns him so he leaves anyways. Dido then kills herself. The trolls won, end of story.

The musical progressions of the scenes with the witches are the kind of music one typically saw in cantatas, or works produced for religious institutions. They are downright reverent, the most cantata like part being a wonderful harpsichord piece featuring several bars where the only vocalization is an endless droning of witchcraft practitioners saying "ha ha ha". One can imagine how subversive this was in the 1680s. The opera was essentially blacklisted from polite society. The only place he could perform it was a girl's school, thus giving young girls a great example of the foolishness of falling head over heels for a dude they'd just banged and the ridiculousness of idiotic lovesickness. It never played in a proper opera house within his lifetime. Now it is considered among the greatest of English language operas.

I read in the Norton critical score version of "Dido and Aeneas" (which was a wonderful gift from world's greatest hardware hacker Fabienne Serriere I received while incarcerated at MDC Brooklyn) the repeated criticism that the antagonists didn't have a realistic motive. The only motivation presented for the sorceresses to perform these acts are the following quotes from the libretto:
"The Queen of Carthage, who we hate-- as we do all in prosp'rous state."
"Appear at my call and share in the fame of a mischief shall make all Carthage flame."
The critics at the time of Purcell and the many centuries after said it was unrealistic that anyone would attack another merely to "share in the fame of a mischief". I'm sure that everyone that is familiar with Internet culture can appreciate the foresight and unique understanding of the human character that Purcell exhibited.

Please, watch this opera. It is potentially the most insightful piece of music and theatre ever performed.
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