Thursday, April 14, 2011

An evening in Carthage

An evening inspired by the creative imagination of director Sarah Meyers was presented by the Juilliard Opera Workshop and Juilliard Historical Performance. Stories from Virgil’s “Aeniad” were combined to make a most entertaining evening entitled “Dido in Context”; this comprised a prologue of Purcell songs dealing with love and war followed by five episodes related to the history of Dido and Aeneas composed by Claudio Monteverdi (a prequel if you will) and finally the compact opera “Dido and Aeneas”, the only opera composed by Purcell.

The renowned early music group Juilliard 415, conducted by Kenneth Weiss (heard a couple days earlier in Carnegie Hall accompanying Dorothea Roschmann and David Daniels) put forth a performance for which to be grateful as did the young singers, all undergraduates at Juiilliard. The soprano role of Dido was given its full measure by soprano Raquel Gonzalez, especially in her final aria “When I am Laid in Rest” which is frequently heard in recitals

John Brancy gave a most moving performance as the Trojan prince Aeneas, particularly in his lament. Having given a flawless rendering of Prince Hamlet’s “O vin, dissipe la tristesse” at the George London finals, it appears that this gifted young baritone is destined to be a prince of the opera stage.

In the fourth episode of Part II tenors Vincent Festa and Christopher Yoon joined forces with baritone Sanghun Han in “Eccomi pronta ai baci” as the sailors departing from Troy. Their voices blended beautifully and made me think how much more “singable” Italian is than English. At times, surtitles would have been helpful for the English.

Much praise can be heaped on Haley Lieberman who designed costumes that were just right in suggesting this ancient epoch. Choreographer Patricia Weiss made sure that the performers employed apposite balletic gestures that prevented the opera from feeling static. The minimalistic set by Elyse Handelman was most appropriate and did not distract from the singing. It is amazing what one can do with fabric and some boxes, especially with the contributions of lighting designer Daniel Ordower. The Met could take a page from this book!

--meche kroop for The Opera Insider

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