Dido and Aeneas

As a fan of both classical literature and opera, I was interested to see how this show would work out, being set in the 20th century banking world. I was hoping for quirkiness, wit and stirring tragedy. I was sorely disappointed.

To start with the positive aspects: the score was well executed by the accompanying pianist and a wonderful violinist and I don’t think I could fault their sound, it was great listening. Aeneas, too, was fantastic. Not only did he have an incredibly strong voice, but he was thoroughly believable as the tortured hero, torn between his love and the rest of the world. The other solo singers, while having pleasant enough voices, were nothing to rave about. The chorus might have been strong singers, however more than half were constantly fighting to upstage the others, resulting in mewling. There was also a definite lack in bass and baritone voices, giving the chorus an unbalanced sound that would have thoroughly benefitted from sacking half the female chorus.

The age range of the chorus was another questionable choice made by the company; it varied from around ten to mid-fifties. I’m still unsure what the purpose of the youngest children were; there were no specific roles for them, nor did they add to the sound of the chorus. They fell victim to the mob of female chorus members, just as the men had.

The staging was poorly thought out. The cast spent much of their time on stage shuffling and elbowing one another for their own space, which was minimal given their large number. Unprofessional jostling should really have been abandoned, rather than taking up the audience’s attention throughout the show. Having a small space to work in should lead to creative and interesting movement, but rather than taking a moment to work this out, it appears the cast decided to ignore the problem.

There were a few small dances involved which really should have been sacrificed. The medieval dance in particular was simply embarrassing. The entirely oversized chorus tried to perform a badly choreographed partner dance crushed between one another. The incorporation of a medieval dance seemed thoroughly unnecessary and out of place in a supposedly modern take on the story of Dido and Aeneas.

Dido and Aeneas earned these two stars thanks to a wonderful score which was brilliantly executed by the accompanying musicians. This was helped by Aeneas, a wonderful actor and singer, who completely stole the show from his fellow vocalists. However, I sadly lack other positive things to say about the performance; the shocking staging managed to ruin any action in foreground, the chorus was filled with straining vocals yet lacked any bass grounding and the dancing had no business on that stage.

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Performances

The Blurb

A topical twist on Purcell's opera! Anti-bank protesters plot against Dido and Aeneas as two banking dynasties are thrust together, then torn apart. Join Aria Alba in this tempestuous tale of sorcery and doomed love.

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