'Les Noces' and 'Dido and Aeneas'
at Opera North in Leeds.
PATRIC STANDFORD was at
the first night on 5 May 2007
On the face of it these are strange bedfellows. The initial intention was to present Purcell's beautifully structured masterpiece, which had not been seen at Opera North for thirty years, in a newly devised version taking the opportunity to include dance. Although there is very little detail available about the first performance (the autograph score, which may well have indicated dates and performers, is lost), it is well known that it was written for the 'Young Gentlewomen' of Josias Priest's boarding school in Chelsea, probably in 1689, and the mature male chorus participation, and the roles of Aeneas and a sailor, as well as perhaps Dido herself, suggest the involvement of professionals. More to the point for Opera North, Mr Priest was a dancing master, and it is highly unlikely that he had not devised dances for his well trained gentlewomen.
Counter-tenor James Laing sings The Spirit of the Sorceress in the Opera North production of 'Dido and Aeneas'. Photo © 2007 Bill Cooper
The stimulus for this production was Aletta Collins, a wonderfully imaginative choreographer and director with whom Opera North had worked a few years ago in the revival of Jenufa. Perhaps because she had recently done Les Noces in Berlin with the Philharmonic and Simon Rattle, the idea of creating an unusual double bill, both pieces under her direction, became a reality. And it was a programme that turned out to be thrilling quite as much for the intense contrast of musical language as for the stunning choreography that Collins devised.
A scene from the Opera North production of 'Les Noces'. Photo © 2007 Bill Cooper
Copyright © 15 May 2007
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK