Hugh M. Casey reviews OpSoc’s Opera Interactive: Dido and Aeneas, an interactive production of Purcell’s work in the halls of 601.

Revolving flesh, corporeality; the roots of men wrenched and circled around the tragedy of Dido and Aeneas.

“Performed in the round… the cyclical nature of Tragedy! Genius!”

Bucolic voices setting the course of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, the Trojan hero. The audience lead by the orchestra burning the core of 601. Stepping through the familiar club doors into derogation: freshness in a florid embrace. An encompassing space, fanned by florid visual sequences splayed on the wall, immersing the audience. Each detail testament to the prudence of Jessica Faith Cooper’s direction.

Raphaelle Daoglio (Dido) and Kristel Knudsen (Belinda) were felicitous Queenly elegance, fitted all in white. Purity ringing through each note. Their voices casting the virulent light required first before darkness may fall. Tragedy; the shadow etched when light is interrupted. Alice Gold, Emily Fielder, and Bear Hutchinson, the dark curtailed language echoing hope with malice. A counterpoint spoken in the recesses of every mind.

Once around the Sun, many times starting towards a conclusion. Each scene shaped within a distinct physical location. Four corners offered a new space for movement, progression asking that the tale unfold. Dido and Aeneas did not allow an otiose viewing experience. With each movement there was fragmentation and resettlement. However, this was not disruptive to the procession of the performance, it rose and fell as a chest with each breath.

A performance conceptually engineered in this way may break the fingers of a reviewer and ponder: “Did the awkward stiffness cutting down my back sound from that inharmonious intrusion into the most intimate details of another’s life? Are the pious traditions of Art quixotic distractions from the mundanity of human life flickering against the wind of eternity? Was the orbit of the audience reflective of the disengagement with self, and the stone concentration we caffeinate for celebrity (the new monarchy)?

But, when the reviewer successfully wrestles his fingers back from the performance he’d probably say: “Well I don’t know about any of that. Anyway, Dido caught my eye as an ‘immersive opera’ and it was a complete experience. Of course we may speculate how each nuance of the performance ruminates a tangible thought. A search into meaning like this is symptom to how dependent we become to find replication of ourselves in the external.

It feels more fitting to blanket this speculation with the wondrous performance that the entire cast delivered. The performance itself is what I will remember above any garish annotation.


Hugh M. Casey