Ryedale Festival: Dido & Aeneas, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 17

THE music of Henry Purcell is enjoying a special focus in this festival, which has offered a perfect excuse for Dido & Aeneas to be the main operatic adventure. That it should be staged in three of Ryedale’s loveliest churches, this being the third, made it additionally attractive.

Inevitably, given the confines of a chancel, there were no props or scenery. It mattered not. The music-making here was uniformly high class, as you would expect under the direction of Eamonn Dougan (although he did not conduct). Monica Nicolaides' management of movement and choreography was equally adept. She ensured that the action remained expeditious and clear-cut despite the confined spaces.

At first, Jess Dandy’s soprano as Dido seemed too full-bodied for a role which is often entrusted to flute-toned singers. But she grew into the drama and by the time she delivered the last line of "When I am laid in earth", she had refined her resonance down almost to a whisper. It was breath-taking.

Charlotte Shaw’s Belinda, in striking fuchsia, made a refreshing contrast, light-voiced, lively, even carefree, just what a burdened friend needs. Peter Edge’s confident baritone made for an aptly self-regarding Aeneas, never likely to confine himself to home comforts. Rosamond Thomas was a bewitching Sorceress, who later hovered over proceedings from the organ loft.

The chorus, sometimes masked, was consistently forthright, its members taking solo cameos confidently, and a vivid quintet accompanied impeccably. Magical.