The first great English opera, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is a dramatically potent and profound retelling of the star-crossed love between the queen of Carthage and her Trojan brave. Musically it shows plenty of Purcell’s sensitivity to words and rhythms and his gift for melody, both of which heighten the poetry and poignancy of fleeting bliss and its doomed aftermath. His acute theatrical sense, in keeping with the fondness for pageantry among the audiences of his time, is reflected in the seamless incorporation of spectacular dance interludes. Perhaps that’s why Mark Morris, an innovative choreographer with a knack for choosing the right music, decided in 1989 to revive Dido in a most intriguing way: his dancers enact the narrative while a quartet of vocalists sings the roles–stressing the masque elements inherent in Purcell’s music for the stage. And for this Chicago premiere Morris has recruited the eminent early-music specialist the Boston Baroque as the pit orchestra and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane and baritone James Maddalena for the title roles. The choreography Morris has come up with draws from various sources–from Asian folk dances to sign language–creating a mesmeric spectacle. Morris, a master of androgynous guises and sexual ambiguity, performs both Dido and the Sorceress, underscoring the point that they might be the two faces of Janus. His dance troupe serves as a Greek chorus in its myriad personae. The Boston Baroque, whose latest CD of Mozart’s Requiem (on Telarc) again demonstrates the validity of its period-instrument approach, will be conducted by founder Martin Pearlman. Other soloists are sopranos Dana Hanchard and Christine Brandes. Tuesday, 7 PM, and Wednesday, 7:30 PM, Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; 831-2822. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susan Wilson.