I ‘produced’ Dido and Aeneas last Sunday. Everyone else did the hard work; I sat down and said, ‘why don’t you do x?’. We had no budget and only slightly more stage, but it’s amazing what you can do with a few costumes and some delicious singing.
The music’s so great. It can first seem a bit of froth, like the words, but it’s so much more, and gets deeper on every hearing. I love the way Purcell gives Dido a ground bass as her first and last arias; I love, too, that a ground bass is the centre point, the song about how Acteon’s hounds ripped him to pieces – a (correct) presage of doom. (Agathe Peyrat sang this with gory relish.) This time, I suddenly realised that the couplet ‘Thus on the fatal Banks of Nile, Weeps the deceitful Crocodile’ is much more than the silly rhyme is appears, but really packs a punch – or does, at least, in the hands of the wonderful Grace Durham. I had tingles down my spine at that moment.
Toby the Greyhound had a short but starring role, as he accompanied Aeneas (who brandished an antler, rather than a boar’s tushes – I don’t have the latter) onto the second act. He was a bit bemused at having to rush past his audience, who were clearly only sitting there to stroke him, but he nonetheless performed the Hunting Hound immaculately.
I was so impressed by the cast, all Guildhall students – not least the first years, who lost their inhibitions very quickly, and lolled their tongues and hunched their backs like true witches. I want the Sorceress (Matthew Sandy) as a pet: he sings like a dream (switching ridiculously easily between tenor and countertenor), acts superbly AND makes his own costumes. WOW!!!
And Dido and Belinda made my dad weep. Which was one of the objects of the exercise. I had Dido (the wonderful Grace Durham) sing her ‘When I am laid’ almost motionless, just holding Belinda’s hands; then walking off, through the audience, in the ritornello, with Belinda looking out after her. Belinda kept this pose throughout the last chorus. Magic.
I soooooo want to do it again, with the same cast. They were fab. (Needless to say, the accompanying ‘orchestra’ was as professional as ever. The MD, Catherine Norton, is heading back to New Zealand when her visa runs out in June. WHAT are we doing letting her go????)
The cast was:
Dido: Grace Durham
Aeneas: Daniel Hawkins
Belinda: Sarah Loveys
Sorceress: Matthew Sandy
Chorus: Agathe Peyrat, Elizabeth Desbruslais, Matthew Healy, Adam Maxey
And starring Toby the Greyhound as himself
Enough gushing, darlings.