What happens when a performace is staged that can best be described as Operance, Operallet, or Ballopera?
You get the fascinating Dido and Aeneas, Henry Purcell's 17th century Opera, as staged by world reknown choreographer Mark Morris and The Mark Morris Dance Group, in collaboration with the Orange County Pacific Symphony, and the UC Irvine Chamber Singers, at The Barclay Theatre.
I'll admit to being a little leary of attending such a spectacle, but when I learned the thing would be in English, and read more about it, the more I looked forward to attending.
Dido and Aeneas is, they say, the first "great" opera in the English language.
It was written in 1689.
That means, folks, that it's OLD. ;-D
I did some reading, in preparation for my attending, and learned some interesting things.
It is yet another one of those classic "ill-fated love" stories everyone from Virgil, to Shakespeare, to any number of later scribes has written, and staged, for public consumption.
In fact, Virgil originally told the tale in his Aeneid, and apparently Purcell got the hots for creating his own version of the story sometime, um, later. ;-D
No score (One source I read, though, says just the prologue score is lost), just the Libretto (The text of a work for the musical theater), survives from the Purcell original, which some might say is just as well, I suppose, since everyone who followed could thus create their own, and perform the opera in entirely new, and original ways, geared toward the sensibilities of the thoroughly "modern" audiences of their day. ;-D
Some say this presents problems, but others have said, through their efforts... Hey, just because it's Baroque doesn't mean that it can't be "fixed"! ;-D
One such "fixer-upper" was Mark Morris, whose group first staged the Opera to much acclaim, way back in 1989, in Belgium. and rarely since.
The Opera is the story of Dido, the noble Queen of Carthage, and the Trojan Prince Aeneas.
While Dido’s court celebrates the imminent hitching of the lovebirds, an evil sorceress, with her coven of witches, plots their doom!
Romance Interruptus leads to Principles being clung to, which eventually leads to heartbreak and tragedy.
All sorts of dancing, singing, and such goes on amidst all this excitement, and the audience is enthralled, and moved by the tale...or not.
Ahh, love...always worthy of building a good tale or two around. ;-D
Earlier this month The Barclay was the host to the Southern California premiere of the Mark Morris Dance Group version of this timeless tale.
After watching this production I'd say that lovers of Opera, and Dance as well, will find the experience a unique, and entertaining one, regardless of whether they enjoyed the performance as a whole.
Mr. Morris is considered one of the foremost experts on the operas and music of Henry Purcell, and originally performed in the lead role in what many consider his greatest work.
In this version he conducts, and others take the stage.
The Dance Group, formed in 1980, is known for its commitment to live music, a feature of every performance, and is known as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the United States and at major international festivals.
So off I went, by bus, which is my usual method of transportation when not traveling by bicycle, or on foot, to The Barclay, on the evening of the 23rd.
The Barclay, is located on the campus of the University of California at Irvine and, for anyone who rides the bus the way to the campus, and the return home, by OCTA, is not that difficult to manage unless you live in South County, and the event on campus, that you attend, ends past 10pm.
Since the Opera is only an hour, and I live in Santa Ana, I had it made. ;-D
I arrived at 630pm, secured my tickets, as a member of The Pacific Symphony's "Citizen Press Corp" and, since I had time, took a few outdoor pictures, and settled down to re-read the Libretto I'd printed off my computer, and also check out the January-August Barclay Program Guide..
Once inside I walked around, chatting with a few of the Senior Citizens who act as Ushers, learning when, and where I could take pictures (The Lobby is OK, and inside the theatre as well, just not during the performance.), and admiring a bit of Statuary, while awaiting admission to my seat.
Mudra (A bodily posture or symbolic gesture with origins in Buddhism and Hinduism.) by Elizabeth MacQueen (1990), is a stunner of a sculpture.
Her ballet inspired works of art seem to, as some critics say, come alive with emotion, action and attitude.
On the ground floor of the lobby one can get various refreshments, all tasty, though some ain't cheap. ;-D
Finally we were allowed inside to find our seats.
I immediately went upstairs to take a picture of the view from the balcony level.
My seat was much closer.
Sitting in the aisle, with a great view of the stage.
Some might think that sitting where you can barely see the heads of the conductor, and the two lead vocalists, in the orchestra pit, instead of in the balcony, is a disadvantage, but I disagree.
In this case the Orchestra, and accompanying vocal acrobatics, are NOT the main attraction here, the action on the stage is.
What goes on up there visually interprets the other and, working together, they are intended to tell a timeless tale in an entertaining way.
As I resumed looking at my stash of info a woman approached, and cheerily piped up in front of God and everybody: "You must be The Mad Macedonian!"
With everyone, within earshot, no doubt looking around for the mad man, and the folks with straightjackets to gently remove him from the building, I looked up and smiled, reaching out to shake her hand, and admit my guilt. ;-D
I wish to thank Karen Drews Hanlon, Director of Communications and Program Developement for the Barclay, for leading me to the Barclays online info, and Press Photos, about the performance so I could begin to understand what I was about to let myself in for, and then doing me the great honor of including me among those who get the printed Press Kit .
When I opened the folder I found reviews, and other printed info, in addition to, what I later found to be, a wonderfully informative Electronic Press Kit on CD.
All this material, print, and online, read before, and afterward, added immensely to my understanding, and enjoyment of the proceedings.
Speaking of which, there was soon a commotion on stage and it appeared the show was about to begin.