Review: Dido and Aeneas

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Powerful and dramatic, the Durham Opera Ensemble’s performance of Dido and Aeneas is an extremely beautifully produced show. As an opera, the singing voices were angelic and a pleasure for the ears! Set in the Chapel of St Hild and St Bede, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, follows the story of two lovers, whose relationship is destroyed by an evil sorcerer. With beautiful harmonies and elegant performances, Dido and Aeneas transports the audience to ancient Carthage, and immerses you in the mystical story of these two lovers.

With the audience sat in pews divided by a central aisle, the chorus took their place near the alter at the front of the church. Warm yellow, unchanging lighting does a fantastic job of creating an intimate atmosphere to transport the audience into the story. The strength and versatility of the chorus is outstanding. Conducted by Leo Zagorac, the ensemble creates atmosphere beautifully. Every note is pitch perfect, and I was in awe of the beauty their voices created. The acoustics of the church work wonderfully with the operatic sounds, a fantastic choice of location!

The strength and versatility of the chorus is outstanding

The brilliant choice in location means the beautiful harmonies are lengthened, resonating in your ears. All the harmonies are faultless, and there are some standouts from and Ruby Alexander. Their voices mixed seamlessly and create smooth and peaceful sounds, they are a joy to listen to. Both took on principle roles, as do some members of the chorus! Some chorus members multirole as other characters and the commitment and work put in from those who do both, is impressive.

A common theme amongst the entire cast is their ability to capture mood. At times it was difficult to follow the story and the specific events that took place but the cast set the tone of scenes and created impactful moods through the use of their voice and performance. This guides the audience through the story and also aided character development, it is clear what the characters are thinking and feeling.

 
To accompany wonderful singing voices are powerful performances

To accompany wonderful singing voices are powerful performances. The two lovers Dido (Sophie Garner) and Aeneas (Ryan Robson-Bluer), are played sensitively and delicately, they brought a sense of calm in the early stages of their relationship. To take away this peacefulness, is the Sorcerer (Fabian Tindale Geere), who gives an exceptional performance. He captures the Sorcerer’s mischievous manner impeccably and injects the opera with energy. The performances are impressive, however the transition of actors in between scenes is a little distracting, and at times takes away from the play. The principle character at the time takes center stage, then when a new character needs to enter they approach from the side. At times actors arrived a little too early and they have to wait on stage before beginning to perform, there are often long musical interludes before they start. These pauses between scenes took away from the flow of performance, but only at times.

This performance of Dido and Aeneas, is gripping to watch and a pleasure to listen to. The standout element is the voices, they are pure and it is clear the cast is full of naturally talented people. A final congratulation has to be given to Joshua Mcdade, who accompanied the cast on the piano. Mcdade plays magnificently and continues the story telling through the piano keys! Dido and Aeneas is an impressive piece of theatre and one that’s beauty is blinding.

Image credit: Anna Choi, Durham Opera Ensemble

One thought on “Review: Dido and Aeneas

  • The reviewer needs to learn the difference between the words principle and principal. Poor in a university. I also doubt that impactful is a word. The review is clearly written by someone with no real understanding of music. No performance is perfect.

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