Theatre of the Warsaw Chamber Opera
Dido and Aeneas
Opera in three acts in its original language
Composer | Henry Purcell
Libretto | Nahum Tate
PREMIERE: 7 October 2022
Staging and director | Tomasz Cyz
Music director | Dirk Vermeulen
Set design and costumes | Natalia Kitamikado
Choreography | Weronika Bartold
Lighting director | Katarzyna Łuszczyk
Stage manager | Renata Tokarska
Aeneas | Artur Janda
Belinda | Joanna Radziszewska
Woman (Lady) | Dorota Szczepańska
Sorceress | Roksana Wardenga
First Witch | Anna Koehler
Second Witch | Karolina Róża Kowalczyk
Sailor | Tomasz Grygo
Weronika Bartold, Weronika Humaj, Małgorzata Czyżowska, Szymon Roszak, Maciej Cymorek, Maciej Zuchowicz
Chorus Master – Krzysztof Kusiel-Moroz
Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense
PHOTHOS FROM THE PREMIERE
PHOTHOS FROM THE 2’nd PREMIERE
The history, that is always present
Roger North, the attorney general at the court of James II Stewart, a great advocate of Henry Purcell’s genius, referred to this composer as the Orpheus Britannicus, considering him a man who turned everything he touched in music to perfect fruit of his genius. While listening to Dido and Aeneas, the most perfect fruit of the composer’s talent, it is impossible not to agree with this statement.
No wonder that it is Purcell that is given a leading position in the community of the most important figures of British music. Born in 1659, for centuries he was considered the most important English composer. No one, like him, arouse opera aficionados’ passion for opera and songs. As a ten-year-old boy, he wrote an ode in honour of the king’s birthday, and it was a time when he had just begun his musical education at the Westminster School, which eventually resulted in becoming a Westminster organist in 1679 (after John Blow himself – Purcell’s mentor). Since then, the composer’s activity has developed on two levels. On the one hand, he devoted himself to sacred music, often associated with court ceremonies. As he himself said, Christ became for him an unshakable foundation. On the second hand, some invisible force pulled him towards the opera all the time. This “disease” – a love for the opera – made him seem to have the gift of floating in the air, as he claimed. One could say that this artistic path resembled a sine wave, but over time Purcell began to focus more on stage works. Both his contemporary critics and researchers of his legacy unanimously emphasize, that he had a great gift for finding melodies in verses of poetry and dramas, which made him frame them with music in a natural way, as if they were always woven from letters directly on a staff.
Dido and Aeneas is considered the sole in one hundred percent Baroque opera by this composer, focused exclusively on music, since in his other works the spoken word harmonizes equally with vocal-instrumental music. But why should we be surprised, since the composer himself said: Music and Poetry have ever been acknowledged Sisters, which walking hand in hand support each other; As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry. Both of them may excel apart, but sure they are most excellent when they are oined, because nothing is then wanting to either of their perfections.
This three-act, extremely well-knit work was heard for the first time on the 11th of April 1689, at the Boarding School for Girls (London), with Purcell playing the harpsichord. It is believed that after Purcell’s excellent reception at the royal court, he created Dido and Aeneas for Charles II, king of England, Scotland and Ireland, but the latter died prematurely, never hearing the work. Ultimately, it honoured the coronation of William III of Orange and Mary II Stuart. The work itself, based on a libretto by Nahum Tate, evokes Virgil’s The Aeneid (Song IV), more precisely the tragic love of the title characters. This fragment of the work is inspiring to such degree that it is precisely the theme of this love and the death of Dido after Aeneas’s departure that the oeuvres of classical painting refer to them, while in the five-act opera Les Troyens they are touched upon by Hector Berlioz (1858). Also, pop culture has skilfully annexed much from Purcell. It is enough to mention the phrases from Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, which in the electronic transcription of three-time Grammy winner, Wendy Carlos, were included in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
The real renaissance of the work’s popularity dates back to the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and it was associated with the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth, the work was presented on most prestigious stages all over the world. It was eagerly used in experiments with modernizing the plot, framed with animations or modern dance. This time, the work will be reviewed by music lovers at the Warsaw Chamber Opera, which proves that despite the passage over 300 years, this music is still teeming with life, inspiring next generations of artists.
Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” is an opera about power, passion and loneliness. Here is a woman-ruler meeting on her way a warrior and a hero. Her earlier life made her stay alone, however the power of the feeling begins to take over. Dido is unable to control her growing passion for Aeneas, despite her fear and uncertainty, she succumbs to it. However, she is not safe: she has opponents at the court, who are plotting against her, wanting to destroy her position, and ultimately to destroy her. Dido decides to act: she sends Aeneas away, condemning herself to loneliness … The staging of “Dido and Aeneas” puts Dido’s emotions at the spotlight – her strength, faithfulness to herself, purity of intentions. As well as the feelings and actions of Aeneas – a man convinced of his own historical role, exceeding someone’s personal fate. The universality of this history is emphasized by the location of this XVII-century musical masterpiece in the second half of the XX century.