Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-2020


My research is about Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. I am investigating this piece from a historical, cultural, and analytical perspective, specifically focusing on the role of musical text-painting.

My data is derived from careful placement of my research within existing research by authors including J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. Regarding the analysis of text painting, many textbooks have focused on the last three numbers of the opera ("Thy Hand, Belinda," "When I am Laid in Earth," and "With Drooping Wings"). Little analytical research has investigated text-painting in the music sung by the character Dido in the first act of the opera, a gap, which I aim to fill. The musical means by which Purcell achieves text-painting here go beyond the famous sighing figures (descending half-steps) and descending chromatic tetrachords of the last numbers. Rather, Purcell uses more nuanced musical idioms, such as large intervals for "triumph;" intricate, nervous rhythms for "stubborn" and "distress;" consecutive sixteenth notes for "storms" and "fierce," and long slurs with dotted rhythms for "flow" and "shake." Text-painting can have a very large effect on songs and bring forth so much emotion. It is evident throughout his whole opera, and a great example to teach others the significance it can have on a piece. My findings on text-painting help us to better understand the composer Purcell, and his operatic music.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Hannah Forton is pursuing a double major in Music and Communications. She was introduced to Henry Purcell's Nymphs and Shepherds in her private voice lessons, and fell in love with his musical technique text-painting. It combines her passion for telling stories through singing as the way the lyrics are reflective of the literal meaning of the words (ex. Ascending scales for lyrics like "climbing the mountain"). Her research paper investigates Purcell's opera: Dido and Aeneas.

For Artistic Presentations

My presentation will be conducted through Google Slides.