By Candy Rendon
If you have always wanted to enjoy an opera but have felt intimidated by the complexities of vocal performances such as this, “Dido & Aeneas” will provide you a simplified opera with all the drama and comedy of much more elaborate opera performances.
Baylor Opera Theater presented Henry Purcell’s production “Dido & Aeneas” Tuesday night at the Jesse H. Jones Theatre at the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Period instruments accompanied by the Baylor Symphony Orchestra brought to life the original music as it would have been played.
The production starts with an elaborate prologue in which the cast members introduce the character of Henry Purcell, the opera’s playwright and composer, which was a smart acknowledgement of his work with the music. Purcell is quiet at first and then draws all the characters closer with his short stacks of parchment music lines. The characters immediately begin to sing, and festive dancing ensues. Thus begins the opera.
The excitement sharpens when Purcell shows them his new work “Dido & Aeneas,” a tale of man and woman finding love. Purcell slows down his hands as he opens the sheets of the opera, and he silently moves about the stage to choose his two lead actors.
Purcell moves stage left and selects a still woman. Then he moves stage right and motions a still man towards the center of the stage. The two characters receive the paper scripts and remain quiet. They lift their heads slowly and gaze at one another without a motion. The characters immediately fall in love with the other.
The two leads take soft steps backward while continuing their hardened gaze, and the orchestra strings croon softly until the harpsichord’s harsh notes begin. With the music carrying off quickly, the actors on stage move faster and faster until the lights dim to a dark blackness.
From the comedic cackles of witches and their smoky fog clouds to the Dido’s expressed feelings of solitude and sorrow, one is likely to find enjoyment with this opera.
“I loved it,” Crawford sophomore Liz Haddad said. “All of it, the costuming, characters, and some evil laughter was really good.”
Kirland, Wash., graduate student, Lauren Shively also praised the performance.
“They did a wonderful job, and well, it’s in English,” said Shively.
Shivley added that not many people understand that operas of today are likely to be presented in another language such as Italian because of the harsh sounds of English.
Because “Dido & Aeneas” is in English, where the audience can understand the dialogue, Shivley said viewers can understand everything that is going on with the performers on stage.
Cast members were pleased with the reactions from the members of the audience.
“Phew, that was the first time I’ve done an opera,” said Brownsville freshman Zachary Barba, “It was definitely our best run yet.”
This production will especially provide viewers with a memorable experience because of the power of the music.
“Oh, it was very different, in a good way,” said Monterrey, Mexico, freshman Luis Gomez, who played a baroque violin throughout the night’s performance.
“With this type of play all the instruments had to change, and so it was an exciting challenge to play this kind of violin,” Gomez said.
The performance of Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas” will continue throughout the week with Mackenzie Wilson and Jacob Valadez leading as Dido and Aeneas tonight as well as on Saturday night, and Kaylie Kahlich and Barron Rice leading as Dido and Aeneas Friday night.
Each night’s opera begins at 7:30 p.m. at Jesse H. Jones Theatre at the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Tickets are available at the concession stands. According to baylor.edu, general admission tickets are $15 and tickets for faculty, staff and students are $10.