BWW Review: Ohio State's DIDO & AENEAS an Inviting Introduction to the Operatic World
An evening at the opera doubles as a dual-departmental showcase of talent in Ohio State's production of "Dido & Aeneas."
Presented as a collaborative effort from OSU's School of Music and Department of Dance, "Dido & Aeneas" features students performing in the cast, chorus, orchestra and as dancers.
For those who might cringe at the thought of deciphering dramatic sentiments sung in a foreign language or dressing up to sit in a darkened theater for several hours, "Dido & Aeneas" might just be the perfect opera.
The performance lasts for approximately an hour, thus eliminating the need for an intermission. Its three acts unfold in English and follow the tragic love story of Queen Dido of Carthage (Lauren Doucet) and Aeneas (Samuel White), a Trojan hero and grandson of Zeus.
Inspired by Virgil's "Aeneid," Nahum Tate's libretto draws upon Greco-Roman mythology and incorporates elements of supernatural forces, courtesy of the story's main antagonist, the Sorceress (Jeffrey Hunnicutt).
Although the opera's plot is plucked out of classical antiquity, OSU's version deliberately excludes overt visual references to a specific time period.
Minimalistic staging relies on modern tricks of light to set the scene and establish a distinct atmosphere for each act.
A smooth, blank sheet is draped from the ceiling, creating a semi-circular performance space on the Barnett Theatre's pitch-black floor. From a soft violet to a cool aquamarine to a fiery red, colored lights are projected onto the surface while dancers athletically contort their bodies to mimic the lazy roll of waves or the frenetic jumping of burning embers. This innovative use of a small space allows for an immersive experience, as the placement of the chorus and orchestra in the black box theater wraps the audience in the rich layers of Henry Purcell's lyrical score.
Admittedly, the plot is not the most complex narrative ever performed, and newcomers to the world of opera might find themselves disappointed when character development falls short of the intricacies of Hollywood's latest psychological thrillers.
Yet as a foray into the world of opera, "Dido & Aeneas" is a welcoming option. With OSU's added artistic direction, this classic forges contemporary connections.
"Dido & Aeneas" is set to be performed at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall, located on OSU's Columbus campus at 1813 N. High St, from Oct. 20 through Oct. 23.
Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for senior citizens, members of the Alumni Association, and OSU faculty, staff and students.
Showtimes and more information on how to purchase tickets can be found at the OSU School of Music website.