Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
24 – 25 Feb 2023, 7.30pm
Esplanade Annexe Studio
Part of The Opera People’s Young Bard series
The Opera People launchs a brand new series, Young Bards, a young professional artist development programme aimed at growing the performance capabilities of a new generation of singers through curated stage performances. For the inaugural edition of Young Bards, we present Dido – a new adaptation of Henry Purcell’s immortal opera Dido and Aeneas.
Dido, Queen and Founder of Carthage, meets Aeneas, who has landed in Carthage after fleeing from Troy after defeat in the Trojan War. As Queen, a political alliance through marriage with Aeneas would bode much security for Carthage. While she sees the importance of the alliance, and also does love him, she knows that the Gods dictate that his fate is to be the founder of the Roman Empire.
Dido portrays a queen torn apart by public obligations and her private desires. She loves Aeneas and knows the political stakes, but Fate will always triumph. She decides to test his resolve.
Directed by Tan Shou Chen, this new adaptation features Alice Putri, Tan See Huey, Ashley Chua, Jonathan Macpherson and Rebecca Reavely, accompanied by musicians of Red Dot Baroque.
Queen Dido’s marriage to Aeneas is more politically important than actual love – their alliance is her duty as queen. She does love him, but the return of his love is politically more important and thus creates a strange inner dynamic for her – actually loving someone she has to love for politics. Not a bad thing, but the stakes here are then politically charged. The expectation for a queen is not to love but to lead by marriage. But she (and he) is aware that their love will not be forever as he is destined to be the founder of Rome. She will test his resolve, but in doing so, manifests his departure.
Dido has been wrestling with herself – on the brink of a psychotic break even before the break up with Aeneas. In Act 2, besides herself, she plots to remind Aeneas that he has to go. This staging focuses and questions Dido’s descent into self-destruction. Aeneas’s departure is just the catalyst. It is a story of the destruction of a psyche.
The staging is thus a rough and private space, the musicians (Red Dot Barqoue) illuminate her psyche, at once driving the action, at others following her as she plummets into death (I.e the way a singer might follow an orchestra and an orchestra might follow a singer). The Sorceress role is amalgamated into Dido – the Spirits are her id. Belinda offers no freedom, the chorus the body politic, Aeneas bound by duty but privilege allows for him to up and leave.