MUSIC REVIEW (HT): Opera has magic power in Tuesday’s (Dido & Aeneas) production


By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
June 27, 2013

didoDominick DiOrio, in taking charge of the Indiana University Jacobs School’s choral program for the summer months, sought projects artistically rewarding for his Summer Festival Chorus of 40.

His first choice for the season was a performance of Henry Purcell’s fragile wonder, “Dido and Aeneas,” a myth retold in beauteous song. DiOrio saw the one-hour opera as an opportunity to feature all his singers, most of them as choristers, a few of them as soloists.

And so it came to be on Tuesday evening in Auer Hall. Conductor/artistic director DiOrio exhibited his young charges splendidly. As courtiers, witches, sailors and cupids, they inhabited the stage, invaded the organ loft, maneuvered up and down aisles. Without benefit of sets, they turned Auer into ancient Carthage. And they made of this small-scaled but significant, late 17th century opera a choral show. The Festival Chorus, in body, sang voluptuously, boldly resonant; their work was lovely to hear.

Those from the ranks that DiOrio chose to portray the characters of the old story carried off their assignments admirably. Mezzo-soprano Madolynn Pessin gave dramatic credence to the title role of Dido, Queen of Carthage, first as a woman yearning the love of Aeneas, the Trojan prince, then gaining that love, only to lose the man of her affection, thereby, however, gaining a great privilege: to sing the opera’s peak moment, the poignant “Lament.” Pessin sang it most persuasively.

As Aeneas, tenor James Reynolds managed not only his assigned arias but to reveal the anguish of a man torn between love for Dido and duty to gods calling him to continue his life mission, that being to found Rome.

Sopranos Christine Buras and Gloria Bangiola voiced sweet music as Belinda, Dido’s loyal sister, and a character simply called Second Woman. A trio of mezzos brought evil doings and bombast to the stage as the scheming Sorceress (Anna Mary Prokop) and a collaborating pair of witches (Meghan Folkerts and Jacquelyn Matava), who conspire to undo Dido by tempting Aeneas to leave. Tenor Travis Bloom proved a jolly sailor.

DiOrio used an instrumental ensemble of eight to round off Purcell’s evocative music, important among them concertmaster Juan Carlos Zamudio, organist Christopher Lynch, and harpsichordist Alice Baldwin.

The whole of this “Dido and Aeneas” was charming, a word here not meant in any way to suggest the frivolous or lightweight but to the contrary, as the dictionary also tells us, something with magic power. The opera still has it, of course. So did Tuesday’s production.

Copyright: 2013


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