Opera Scotland

Dido and Aeneas 2013Eboracum Baroque

Read more about the opera Dido and Aeneas

It was good to see this excellent little group returning for a second Fringe visit under conductor/director Chris Parsons. It gave us, sadly for only one performance, a second chance to encounter the economically but stylishly produced Dido and Aeneas. Most of last year's cast having moved on, a new group had assembled - a dozen soloists who blended beautifully when choral forces were required. The clear acoustic of the Canongate permitted clever use of the space - choruses from the back, echo effects from a distant stairwell, and so on. In spite of the shortage of performance practice, there were few hiccups in the presentation. The new voices, led by the majestic Dido of Naomi Sturges, were just as effective as the returnees (such as John Holland-Avery's Aeneas). Emma Lewis and her attendant witches and demons (masked) all projected the comic side of their roles without overdoing it. The little band of string quartet, natural trumpet, two recorders and harpsichord did everything throughout in a stylish manner.

This year there was a bonus, in that the presentation began with some reasonably coherent excerpts from the music Purcell composed in the last weeks of his life to accompany a revival of Fletcher's Jacobean tragedy Bonduca. - a loosely historical account of the revolt against the Romans by Boudicca/Boadicea. The programme was therefore entitled Purcell's Heroines, and whatever virtues the drama may, or may not, have, there is no doubt that this is top notch Purcell. The only familiar piece was a tune from the overture, but the rest was just as good, climaxing with a lament for Bonduca herself (again beautifully delivered by Naomi Sturges), which may not quite equal Dido's Lament or 'Fairest Isle', but was still a lovely piece. There was an excellent duet for two druidesses (Amber Rutterford and Ruth McElvanney). A catch for three drunken Roman soldiers was well projected by Gareth Edmunds, Nils Greenhow and John Holland-Avery - this was the kind of entertaining ditty that Purcell used to knock off for performance after dinner or in the pub with his mates (though perhaps rather less obscene). There was excellent work provided by the chorus, and several brief linking passages from the play to show what was going on. If the full drama is not yet considered to be viable, this was at least an enterprising way of letting us hear some of the music.

Performance DatesDido and Aeneas 2013

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Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

17 Aug, 19.30

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