Opera Scotland

Dido and Aeneas 2015Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Read more about the opera Dido and Aeneas

Dido and Aeneas is a popular choice for student groups, with little stress placed on young voices, but plenty of good acting opportunities. The coupling with Poulenc's ribald post-war farce Les Mamelles de Tirésias may seem incongruous, but Opera North offered the same works a few years ago. The sober, musically accomplished performance of the Purcell provided a huge contrast to the bracing Poulenc that followed. The momentum achieved by running the production on four successive evenings meant that by the last session all was running smoothly projecting a great sense of confidence.

The visual side could hardly have been simpler - no set, and very few props, to the point where bringing on a bed for Dido's departure seemed almost an intrusion. The superb little band spread across the back of the stage - seven instruments in all, a string quartet, harpsichord, theorbo and baroque guitar. Behind them stood the chorus, eight singers, with two of them providing voices for the Spirit and the Sailor, who were represented visually by dancers. Tempi chosen by Timothy Dean were quite brisk, though with no sense of hurrying. In the final chorus, perhaps there the sense of grief was understated. As is customary, a couple of brief instrumental extracts from other Purcell scores were added where required.

There were several features of the staging that attempted to introduce visual variety. Aeneas switched from white uniform to black as the narrative darkened. Dido opened in a long evening gown before adopting a short business suit. The Sorceress started in formal attire with straight black wig, which was discarded as she got down to casting her spells. The greatest sense of movement was provided by the squad of seven dancers (two men and five women) - lyrical circuits to begin, with more angular movement as the tale progressed. There is, of course, plenty of dance music in the score that needs to be illustrated, but sometimes the movement seemed to add little.

The singing achieved a generally high standard, beautifully phrased, with excellent diction from all. The vocal quality of Eirlys Myfanwy Davies was already known from her Monteverdi, but this excellent performance of Dido confirmed matters. The other singers were largely unfamiliar, with great promise shown by all - perhaps Victoria Stevens and Jane Monari being particularly notable. The school continues its record for importing excellent students.

Performance DatesDido and Aeneas 2015

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Royal Conservatoire of Scotland | Glasgow

4 Mar, 19.15 5 Mar, 19.15 6 Mar, 19.15 7 Mar, 19.15

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