There are two reasons I was excited that the University of Dallas music department decided to perform the story of Dido and Aeneas. First, like a typical UD classics student, I love the “Aeneid” – hands down, my favorite epic from Lit. Trad. I.
And second – Henry Purcell is easily one of the greatest composers of the Baroque Period. Furthermore, the requirement of a harpsichord marked this undertaking by the music department as quite an ambitious one.
The set for this opera was rather simple, and therefore perfect; that way, it did not distract from the importance of the music.
I was extremely happy to see that alumna Rachel Davies (Dido) came back to perform; if you didn’t see her as Guinevere in “Camelot!” last year, you missed out – Davies’ voice is impeccable.
If you, like me, were confused at the scenes with the occult within the opera, it will help you to find that Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” was not based closely on Virgil’s “Aeneid,” but also partially on Nahum Tate’s play, “The Enchanted Lovers” (1678).
Though the witches (Mary Bloch and Olivia LaFond) and the sorceress (Patsy Craig) were not the main characters, their scenes with the Greek chorus stole the show. Their voices hauntingly resounded throughout Lynch. In particular, in the first scene with these characters, the chorus acted as a fire underneath the two witches – easily the most notable effect in the show.
Another scene, albeit brief, which struck me, was when the Spirit (Anna Marie Delarosa) came to Aeneas (Matthew Quinn); Delarosa’s presence was very strong and well played.
Unfortunately, a small number of the cast members were either inconsistent or else had difficulty projecting out into the audience; I could barely hear some of them, even though I was in the front row.
Dido and Aeneas’ interactions on stage were limited, but the “Stay” / “Away” exchange near the end was beautifully performed back and forth. Inarguably, the crowning glory of the opera was Dido’s death scene, both poignant and resonant as it reached its climactic crescendo.
Upon leaving Lynch Auditorium, I found that no one could stop talking about the opera, and a large crowd remained outside for a long time afterwards. Many of us wished the show had been longer than 45 minutes. When it was over, senior Stephanie Ossowski gushed, “I only wish it went on for hours more.” I briefly caught up with cast member Monica Gallagher, who stated, “It was so much fun and such a unique experience. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m so thankful to Ms. Nelson and Mrs. Walker for this opportunity.”