Taylor University Opera Theatre Presents "Dido and Aeneas"

Published: Mar 21, 2014

Dido and Aeneas

Taylor University Opera Theatre presents a contemporary staging of Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas on April 11 and 12 at 8:00 p.m., in the Butz-Carruth Recital Hall in the Smith-Hermanson Music Building. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved at the music office or bought at the door.

Students from diverse majors perform in this production’s chorus, orchestra, and lead roles. The Taylor University Music Department enjoys collaboration from talented members of Taylor’s Theater and Art departments in areas such as stage management, graphics, design, and lighting.

This Baroque-era opera is based on Virgil’s iconic legend, The Aeneid, which tells the tale of a short-lived love affair between Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, a Trojan warrior. Dido, who has survived the tragic loss of her first husband, falls hard for the Trojan hero, but other forces are bent on her destruction. Aeneas is tricked into abandoning her, and Dido, overwhelmed with grief, takes her own life. Taylor Opera Theatre’s production uses a modern-day setting to find contemporary applications of the work’s themes. Dr. Conor Angell, the stage director, describes the updated version as an accessible, gripping story:

“Purcell’s opera is a vehicle for exploring our culture’s fascination with celebrity and public image. Dido is a fashion designer in our production, and Aeneas is a politician," said Dr. Conor Angell, opera director. "The villains are tabloid reporters and paparazzi who are intent on creating a scandal that will boost sales. Moving at a fast pace between light-hearted and tragic moments, the opera depicts society’s love for capturing moments: social media allows us to share messages – whether true or false – more effectively than ever.”

Junior Sarah Kline, singing the role of First Witch (a member of the paparazzi), is excited to present this story to Taylor’s campus. "My character illustrates the effect of pictures, rumors, tabloids, and paparazzi activities. This show is exciting, intense, and drama-filled!" Senior Courtney Jameson and freshman Howard Lee perform the title roles; junior Haley Kurr, sophomores Emma Helfgott, Josh Duch and Ye Jong Yoo, and freshmen Meghan Gamble, Diana Romeos, and Hyung Jin Park fill the other lead roles. The production draws on the talents of recent Taylor graduates Ryan Maloney in set design and Sara Phillips in costumes, as well as senior Brianna Wyatt in choreography, and sophomore Leah Murphy in hair and makeup. Dr. Patricia Robertson is the music director.

The first opera in the English language, Dido and Aeneas was premiered in 1688, but disappeared as a staged work until 1895, when it was re-constructed to mark the bicentenary of Purcell's death.  With the 20th century revival of Baroque music, new critical editions of the Purcell score (including the original dances) are available, and the number of performances has steadily increased.  Its upbeat choruses and dance music, in the style of a Greek chorus, help to connect us to the stage action. Music director Dr. Patricia Robertson explains why the opera succeeds:

“Purcell takes a heroic tale and styles it into an intimate human drama, packing a rich variety of music into a brief work, not quite an hour in duration. We are attracted to the simplicity of the work — its themes of love, longing, honor and loss create connections to our own generation, and when we are confronted with the simplicity of Dido’s final aria we find we are moved profoundly.”

For more information, call (765) 998-5232.