Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
QUEENS COLLEGE PRESENTS HENRY PURCELL’S BAROQUE OPERA
DIDO & AENEAS ON DECEMBER 9 AND 10
-- Dido & Aeneas, Regarded By Many As The Greatest English Baroque Opera, Will Be Performed With Period Instruments;
Themes of Love and Fate vs. Self-Determination Still Resonate --
FLUSHING, NY, November 27, 2006 – As is the case with many great works of art, Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, based on Vergil’s epic poem The Aeneid, was not fully appreciated during the composer’s lifetime. Dido & Aeneas was premiered in 1689 at Josias Priest’s Boarding School for Women in London, with no record of further performances until the 1700s, well after the composer’s death.
The opera then remained unperformed until the late 19th century, when it was presented in re-orchestrated versions. It wasn’t until the 1950s that these re-orchestrations were dropped, and a true attempt to honor the beauty of the original score was made.
In the spirit of remaining true to Purcell’s original conception of the score, the Queens College Opera Studio and Queens College Choir, Aaron Copland School of Music, will perform Dido & Aeneas with period instruments (recreations of musical instruments thought to have been used in the 1600s). The performance will take place in LeFrak Concert Hall on Saturday, December 9, at 8:00 pm and Sunday, December 10, at 3:00 pm. Tickets are available at $10 each. Orders may be placed by phone at 718-793-8080 or at the box office.
Dido & Aeneas is the story of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, who falls in love with Aeneas, who flees to Carthage after his defeat in the Trojan War. A sorceress and her coven of witches plot Dido’s downfall. They send a false messenger telling Aeneas he must leave Carthage for Rome immediately. Aeneas reluctantly obeys; abandoned and brokenhearted, Dido kills herself.
Dido & Aeneas, in this semi-staged production, is conducted by Professor James John, directed by David Ronis, with musical preparation by Bruce Norris of the Aaron Copland School of Music.
In John’s view, Dido & Aeneas is special, not only because it is “an all-sung drama, but also because of its unity of musical and dramatic action. The creation of complex, dramatically powerful statements with an extraordinary economy of means is the mark of true genius,” he says, “and one of the many factors – above and beyond the work’s historical context – that place it among the outstanding operas of all time.”
Ronis adds that the themes inherent in this 300-year-old opera – fate, self-determination and the power of love – are universal and resonate emotionally with 21st-century audiences. “They provide food for thought as we reflect on the stories of our own lives,” he says. “The story of Dido & Aeneas causes us to question the extent to which we either believe in some kind of fatal inevitability, or contrarily, that we hold the keys to our own destiny.”
LeFrak Concert Hall is located on the Queens College campus between exits 23 and 24 of the eastbound service road of the LIE in Flushing. Free parking is available. For public transportation and additional directions, visit:http://www.qc.cuny.edu/about/directions.php.