Dido and Aeneas

 

Cork Opera House

Dido and Aeneas

As re-created In this Opera House presentation, those familiar with the score might wonder where a saxophone fits in, or which direction the musicians might be following by playing while lying on the floor. The libretto has been re-fashioned to allow a reflective fusion of characters, distilling the entire cast into an ensemble of eight. Numbers should not matter but it says something about the range of the team’s ambition – and ability – that the four-woman orchestra plays a total of 10 instruments and is emphatically part of the action for the hour-long duration.

The reading of Dido’s tragedy as one in which the Queen of Carthage succumbs to a self-inflicted delusion rather than to witchcraft, is not only given both conviction and pathos by Cara O’Sullivan’s commanding performance but is supported by the singing of Mary Hegarty and Majella Cullagh. The trio of compelling sopranos as queen, courtiers, witches and chorus is matched by the robust voice of Brendan Collins in a double role as both the sailor and Aeneas. No easy task, that, as the Trojan hero has to respond to Dido’s passion while also bound to leave her in obedience to Jove’s commands. So much for the plot. From the moment the orchestral players prance on stage in the Goth costumes designed by Lisa Zagone, it is obvious that this is going to be an exuberant take on the story, beginning with the re-orchestration by Marja Gaynor and Carolyn Goodwin.

Everything flows from this, Purcell stepped up several gears while still layering valiant recitatives above a Baroque accompaniment and finally gliding efficiently into Dido’s aria Remember Me. Director John O’Brien provides a vaporous set in which a throne sharp as a scalpel sits under shards floating to earth as if from some shattered planet; under this galactic dance the dishevelled opulence of the costumes, the lighting by Michael Hurley and the musical and vocal bravura ensure that like Dido, this production will not be forgotten.

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