The Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado will begin 2020 with a new production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. I’m very excited to come back to this gem from the English Baroque after 10 years. There are so many things to like in this opera! It’s just about one hour long, with a simple but compelling story told with a wonderful sense of timing and pacing. It’s in English, so no need for translation or supertitles. And finally there is Purcell’s inventive and very accessible music, beginning with an almost breathless overture that draws you right in, and concluding with one of the most popular songs in classical music – Dido’s Lament. Purcell managed to fill an hour-long opera with so much – a tragedy with a little comedy and satire, touching on themes of love, lust, politics and gender.
We have a wonderful cast for these performances. Emily Marvosh (contralto) will sing the role of Dido and her nemesis the Sorceress, which brings an interesting twist to the production! Andrew Garland (baritone) will sing Aeneas. He is a multi-dimensional artist who has recently joined the faculty of University of Colorado at Boulder; I’m thrilled to have him join BCOC for the first time. Danielle Sampson (soprano) has performed with BCOC often, including the last year’s Orfeo. She was also our first Dido during her student days in Denver. Danielle made the switch along the way from being an alto to now singing soprano, so I asked her to be our Belinda this time around!
We are taking a first step toward doing some staging, but it will be minimal and focused on the four main roles. The whole concept of a “semi-staged” production can be a little vague – there is a wide range of possibilities. But I think semi-staging can be very effective, especially with Baroque opera. Without all the elements of a fully staged production, an opera like Dido and Aeneas can communicate in other ways – through gestures, facial expressions, and body language. And the performers can connect with the audience in a powerful way, allowing it to focus on the visceral human emotions.
Finally, I wanted to mention a special project that is happening around our production. Heather Delzell, a Denver artist who painted a new portrait of Arcangelo Corelli featured on the cover of our recent CD, Corelli’s Circle, asked her art students at Regis Jesuit High School to paint portraits based on Dido and Aeneas. “The majority of the students painted portraits of their most revered character,” according to Heather. “Some felt called to depict Carthage’s landscape, or a dramatic scene of Dido and Aeneas in a deep embrace. The larger goal was to ferret out the deeper truth of their subjects. Beyond likeness, capture and uncover the interiority of their subjects.”
The results will be shown in a special exhibit in the lobby at our January 12 performance at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, with the work of some 25 students on display.
Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado presents
Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 7:30 pm
St. Luke’s UMC, 8817 S Broadway, Highlands Ranch
Sunday January 12, 2020 at 3:00 pm
Antonio Brico Stage, Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St, Denver