Monday, 29 February 2016

Henry Purcell, Dido & Aeneas - Staatsoper im Schillertheater Berlin

Performance 27th February

When I saw the performance of Purcell's famous opera in combination with dance I thought that it was a brilliant idea to combine the different art forms in order to intensify the effect of the heart-
breaking story of Dido and Aeneas. It could have been such a lovely evening...
Everyone who has at least a bit of knowledge about dance has heard of Sasha Waltz. The German choreographer is probably the most important figure in contemporary dance theatre since the great Pina Bausch and works a lot with dance and opera. However the production of Dido and Aeneas was quite disappointing and did not really convince me.
The two most important things of this marvelous piece were just not elaborated well enough in this performance: first the clear and plain musical performance and secondly the immediate dramatic power of Purcell's masterpiece.
The main problem was that the added dance sequences did interrupt the plot and not support it. It was as if there were two pieces on the stage at the same time. The whole production tried so hard to be progressive that the spirit of the work became totally secondary. It all started so well. During the first scene the dancers jumped into some sort of glass pool filled with water. The highly aestatic movements of the dancers looked even more elegantly in the water. The intensive expressivity of this water ballet was really nice but was the most interesting part of the whole evening (when it comes to dance). Some of the later dance scenes were also very beautiful and expressive but most of it lacked of dramatic content and even though you could tell the high professionalism of the dance company it just failed to convince. If it had been two seperate pieces it would probably have been more interesting but the attempt to blend them together just failed epicly.
The musical part was more satisfying but also not what I expected. Christopher Moulds and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin just did not carry away the audience. There was a lack of passion and solemnity throughout the whole performance. Knowing the score very well I really was surprised of some passages that I know very differently. Very often I missed the immediate simplicity of Purcell's great score due to the extensive use of ornaments and overfilled basso continuo parts. The Vocalconsort Berlin probably was the most convincing part of the evening with delicate singing during the many lovely choir scenes.
The vocal soloists mostly gave a solid performance but not more. The sorceress and her two fellow witches (Fabrice Mantegna with Sebastian Lipp and Michael Bennett) were casted with male singers which was disturbing at first. They managed their part fine and party with comedic irony but stayed a little bit colourless.
Same is valid for the singers of the second woman and Belinda. Céline Ricci and Deborah York sang their part without any issues but there was no thrill in their performance. York, not having a very big voice (which is also not necessary for this repertoire) seemed to have some intonation issues but showed her very flexible light soprano voice.
Reuben Willcox's Aeneas would probably have been better if he did not have to be dancing around during his performance. Being busy dancing and singing at once his performance just did not really convince me and seemed one-dimensional.
Probably the best vocal performance was made by Aurore Ugolin as Dido. Her dark soft voice suited this role well even though her performance could have been a little bit more intensive. She sometimes seemed a bit emotionless and lacked the passion of this tragic role.
Alltogether I have to say that I was really disappointed by the performance which I was really looking forward to. As I already said it could have been interesting if the two spheres (dance sequences and opera) did not interfere so distinctively all the time. Like that I would give 6 stars to the performance.
✰- - -
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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