Mark Morris's Dido and Aeneas has been hugely praised, but because of the general admiration for certain of its elements—above all, Morris's performance in the double role of Dido and the Sorceress, the grandest part he ever played—one feature, it seems to me, has not received enough attention: the set, by Robert Bordo.

Morris's piece, premiered in 1989, is a through-danced production of Purcell's 1689 opera of the same name, whose story is derived, ultimately, from Virgil's Aeneid, written in the first century b.c., under and for Augustus Caesar. In 29–27 b.c., Augustus had ended Rome's famed stature as a republic and set himself up as the sole ruler of what then became, ipso facto, an empire. For such an action, he needed justification, and that, in part, is what the Aeneid was....

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