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The same group of eight singers was joined by Joana Thome, as Dido, to perform Dido and Aeneas. Director Helen Eastman had the set dressed with nothing but a pile of costumes. These were used by the chorus, at the opening, to dress Dido and Aeneas. The chorus remained in modern dress but the two protagonists were thus in 17th century costume. Eastman chose to give us the feeling that the opera was being staged here and now, highlighting the way the chorus's role changes from commentator to participant.

Picnic scene in English Touring Opera's production of Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison
Picnic scene in English Touring Opera's production of Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison

The cast was very hard working, all sang in the ensembles besides providing the solo roles; Jane Harrington made a concerned Belinda; Patricia Orr was a strong Sorceress, Sean Clayton's sailor had a rather uncertain accent, but sang well; Susan Atherton and Laura Mitchell were witches and Iestyn Morris impressed as the Spirit.

'Destruction's our delight!' - witches in English Touring Opera's production of Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison
'Destruction's our delight!' - witches in English Touring Opera's production of Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas'. Photo © 2006 Keith Pattison

Eastman did not play up the comedy too much in the sorceress's scenes, which was a relief. The cast donned a variety of outrageous costumes and masks for these scenes and very effectively delineated the difference between these and the court scenes. Patricia Orr's Sorceress was musically sung without too much of the distortion of the vocal line, which is common in this role.

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Copyright © 17 October 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK

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