Dido and Aeneas

Henry Purcell
DIDO AND AENEAS

Opera in three acts Z 626
Libretto by Nahum Tate after Virgil’s Aeneid with an additional prologue and epilogue by Johanna Wokalek
based on motifs from Giovanni Francesco Busenello’s libretto for La Didone and Virgil’s Aeneid, together with Nietzsche’s poem Die Bösen liebend

JOHANNA WOKALEK  Sorceress
KATE LINDSEY  Dido
BENEDICT NELSON  Aeneas
KATJA STUBER  Belinda
AGNES KOVACS  Second Woman
ANNE BIERWIRTH  First Witch
MARION ECKSTEIN  Second Witch / Spirit
HERMANN OSWALD  Sailor

FLORENCE VON GERKAN / HWAN KIM  (assistant) stage & costume designs
GAIL SKRELA  choreography
MICHAEL BEYERMANN  lighting

BALTHASAR NEUMANN CHOR & SOLOISTS
BALTHASAR NEUMANN ENSEMBLE
THOMAS HENGELBROCK  concept, stage direction and musical direction

 

projekt_dido_02

 

Thomas Hengelbrock as stage director

It is impossible to say whether Henry Purcell could have predicted that his opera Dido and Aeneas would have retained its shattering topicality more than three hundred years after its first performance in 1689. Dido and Aeneas are refugees fleeing from war zones. Both have lost their first spouses. They meet in Carthage and fall hopelessly in love. But the shadows of the past catch up with them: Aeneas is reminded of his obligations by a “Spirit” and leaves Carthage in a hurry. Dido is reduced to despair by his departure and stabs herself through the heart.

Purcell and his librettist, Nahum Tate, based their opera on Book Four of Virgil’s Aeneid, while making decisive changes to its dramaturgical design. Not only did they remove the cast of gods but they introduced a Sorceress inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The love between Dido and Aeneas and its subsequent breakdown is no longer initiated by an act of arbitrary tyranny on the part of the gods but is now psychologically motivated. As in many other English plays of the 17th century, the Sorceress is a reflection of Dido’s darker side. It is she who is the true antagonist, raising evil, destruction and war to a level where they become the norm and postulating a reversal of all values.

As in many semi-operas of Purcell’s time, the Sorceress is sung and played by an actress in Thomas Hengelbrock’s staging of the work. Johann Wokalek has elaborated the character by adding texts of her own that are borrowed from Busenello and Virgil.

„It is the internalization of the action that is especially moving here, together with the power of understatement that Hengelbrock ultimately conjures up from total darkness. Every climax leads to something more delicate – and in this the chorus and orchestra are his most sensitive comrades in arms. Originally planned as a concert performance, the production – conceived and conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock – finally grew to become a reading of the work that has been developed both textually and musically, garnering storms of applause at the end of its seventy-minute duration.“ Die Presse

„The audience could respond to Dido and Aeneas on this wonderful evening in no other way than as to a miracle.“ FAZ