Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Telling the tale of love and despair between the Queen of Carthage and a Trojan hero, this production by The Other Theatre is a fresh interpretation of Purcell’s classic Baroque opera.
Staged at the East Sydney Community and Arts Centre (ESCAC), this production of Dido and Aeneas is an independent-scale presentation of this story of love, loss and destruction. We open in the court of Dido, Queen of Carthage, surrounded by her sister, Belinda and attendants. Dido falls in love with and marries the Trojan hero Aeneas but alas, sorcery and the Gods intervene and the lovers are doomed to separate. Sinking into despair, Dido, unable to live on without him, ends her life.
Across the board, the cast were clearly experienced and trained opera singers who delivered beautifully sounding performances. Rebecca Hart’s diction particularly in her recitative was exceptionally crisp and comprehensible.
The performances on a whole however, lacked depth in terms of emotional and physical connection to each other, motivations, objectives and choices and the production could have benefitted from having an acting coach on board during rehearsal. Despite this, leeway must be given in this circumstance as it is probably quite difficult to find equally experienced opera singers/actors on an independent budget.
The exception to all of the above is the two leading ladies, Rebecca MacCallion and Kirralee Hillier who portrayed Dido and her sister Belinda, respectively. Both women were emotionally invested in their characters and the text and drew our eyes at every moment. Dido’s closing aria was particularly impressive both vocally and in emotional vigour.
The orchestra and music direction spearheaded by Su Choung was very well done and appropriate for the scale of the production.
Producing such a monumental work like Dido and Aeneas is exceptionally difficult on an independent theatrical budget as many of the production elements required to pull off an operatic work to full effect are quite expensive (not to mention the people costs!). Thus, with the budget in mind, Eugene Lynch has given us a reasonable interpretation of this three-act classic and kept us entertained for the duration.
Being completely honest, this is the first opera I have ever been to, so firstly, I’m very grateful as it has now led to me sitting at home listening to a new style of music. I enjoyed the music and the quality of singing but some of the story was lost to me as I am generally unacquainted with operatic recitative, it might have been helpful to have a follow-on libretto. Nevertheless, I am always pleased when I see a fresh take on something classic and The Other Theatre has most certainly delivered that.
Venue ESCAC (Darlinghurst), 25th to 26th October 2019
Director Eugene Lynch
Composer Henry Purcell
Librettist Nahum Tate
Cover Image and Production Shots by The Other Theatre
DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.