Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Dido and Aeneas - review

Written by: Imogen Morgan

The Bussey Building, London

Opera in Space has taken a bold step into the promenade for this adaptation of Dido & Aeneas. Originally performed in 1688, this adaptation of Purcell’s opera has a modern twist that may not appeal to all audiences. Where some may find a more traditional approach stagnant, and irrelevant to the modern day, others may feel the application of modern life to such a work may jar, and hamper its potential for real beauty.

Photo: Sally Neville 
I am not dismissing this as a modern adaptation that has failed to capture its audience. It was certainly a full house, who all seemed very much engaged, particularly in the first two acts which are set in the round. Here, Dido (Sylvie Gallant) and Aeneas (Adam Kowalczyk) meet and the audience are allowed to appreciate the beautiful melodies written by Purcell.

However, the audience are immersed within this production and follow the six singers and three musicians through the set, which is spread over two floors. Some may be more uncomfortable with this style of production as you may end up participating in some dancing.

Photo: Sally Neville 
The company takes advantage of the immersive aspect, using all the senses in order to create the moody and unsettling atmosphere in a contemporary setting. This includes a grove scene complete with strong-smelling peaty garden centre turf; the witches’ cave that is fully decked out with a surgical trolley; an old bath and tools used by the drug-addicted evil spirits who bathe in blood and inject themselves; and sheets of translucent polythene that the witches plot behind. These contemporary aspects, along with the sensory application don’t have the full effect intended, some of it feels rather too forced, in your face and over the top.  Aside from this, the singing was consistently good, and Carleen Ebbs (playing Dido’s sister) must be credited for her excellent support of Sylvie Gallant.

Overall, this modern adaptation has attempted to break down barriers, but I fear they may have just broken a few windows and floorboards, that have only been half fixed or patched up, so that some unnecessary and unwanted things are able to sneak in and tarnish some of the beauty that resides within this opera. 

This production runs until 26 January 2013.

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