Baylor adapts ‘Aeneid’ for opera

‘Dido & Aeneas’ features College Station junior Kaylie Kahlich as Dido and Jacksonville, Fla., graduate student Barron Rice as Aeneas in a story based on Virgil’s “The Aenied.” The play is directed by Eric Gibson.
Courtesy Photo

By Candy Rendon

Baylor Opera Theatre will present Henry Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas,” with veteran stage director Eric Gibson leading the student performers and assistant professor of voice Jeffrey Peterson conducting the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.

The production will be presented on four nights, with two sets of student leads performing throughout the week.

The production follows the two main characters, Dido, queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, a hero of the Trojan War, of Virgil’s “The Aeneid.”

This opera focuses on the two protagonists and their romantic difficulties of becoming more than lovers when outside forces restrain them from continuing their relationship.

Will love become their resolve or reveal to them a more potent problem?

There is undoubtedly more substance and woes to be witnessed once seeing this operatic performance, but beneath it all, the story examines the simple joys and woes about a boy meeting a girl. Who falls in love?

Gibson explained the significant difference of this opera to other, lengthier productions.

“Well, I think this is a wonderful starter opera for people not familiar with this kind of performance because it’s short. It’s in English, and it is a very concise script,” Gibson said. “If one character says to the other, ‘I love you,’ he says ‘I love you,’ and that is that.”

Gibson has been director of Light Opera Oklahoma in Tulsa, Okla., where he has staged productions such as “A Little Night Music” and “South Pacific.”

The set uses several cloths to piece together the period with the characters and make the stage visually stunning, Gibson said.

College Station junior Kaylie Kahlich is a voice major and plays Dido.

“I have always loved music and vocal performance. I was so excited when I heard that I got the part. I’m just a junior, and there are so many other talented girls out there. I was just so honored and excited. Also really scared,” Kahlich said.

Kahlich said the performance gets straight to the point without losing audience interest. It cuts all the excessive and leaves the essential, she said.

Barron Rice, a Jacksonville, Fla., graduate student, portrays Aeneas and also expressed his excitement for the production.

“I actually played Aeneas in my freshmen year of undergraduate studies, but I didn’t know how to really portray the character. Now, however, I really feel the character. I’ve grown a lot since then,” Rice said.

For students that have never experienced the opera, Rice said, “Just the experience of going to the opera is life changing. Anybody can be interested.”

The chamber orchestra will also accompany the performers with instruments of the time period that would have accompanied Purcell’s opera. There will be harpsichords, zithers and other stringed instruments to bring the opera a more organic tone.

The opera is a unique collaboration of artistic design, orchestrated music and vocal performance. Gibson stressed that with the comedic highs and dramatic lows that opera provides the audience, the experience is surely a memorable event, and one should find the opportunity to experience the mystery and interworking dynamics of such a production this week.

Shows are being presented at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Hooper Schaefer Fine Arts Building.

Student tickets care $10 and general admission tickets are $15. Those interested in getting tickets can call 254-710-3571 for tickets or go to visit the Baylor School of Music.