Young Wife / Dido and Aeneas

C.Tribble
'Dido & Aeneas'

A runner-up in OperaUpClose’s Flourish composing competition, new opera ‘Young Wife’ is a tour de force for singer and pianist. In this production, the roles are competently taken by soprano and talented actress Maud Millar and the composer, pianist Katarzyna Brochocka.

The story that unfolds in interludes between unrelentingly dissonant and thundering fugal scales, is based on ‘The Memoirs of a Young Wife’ by Gabriela Zapolska. Unfortunately, the uncompromising piano score and persistent spiky vocal writing distances one from the intriguing tale of a women married for her dowry. Only at the end, when Brochocka eases into what seems a variation on Purcell’s ‘When I am Laid in Earth’ does the piece shine as it deserves to.

After the interval of this double bill, it is the turn of the original ‘Dido and Aeneas’ by seventeenth-century Londoner Henry Purcell. The departure of an elderly pair of audience members indicated that exciting young director Valentina Ceschi’s resetting the tale of the Queen of Carthage and a Trojan prince in an American high school is a bold one. But with talented singers following such fine direction, it works really well, as the theme is consistent and the story coherent. Here Dido is the homecoming queen and Aeneas is a football jock. Flexible mezzo-soprano Zarah Hible and solid baritone Ian Beadle give a fine account of these lovers both vocally and theatrically, and are supported by sprightly crew which excels in some exquisite ensemble singing, notably in the final sextet. They include confident countertenor James Hutchings as co-conspirator Chad and Eleanor Ross as a sweet-voiced Belinda; in a marvellous idiomatic touch, the Sorceress is reimagined as jealous cheerleader Britney – all well cast and bursting with youthful exuberance. That they all are given modern names is unnecessary but does show an attention to detail. Great fun and beautifully sung. 

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James Thompson

This was a great fun and diverse evening, the 2 pieces were nicely contrasting, with the space transformed in the interval, I really enjoyed the young wife, the music emulating the changing moods of the Young wife's delicate pshychosis, beautifully played by the composer. The second Act, Dido and Aeneas was excellently portrayed in an American High school, which really worked with the melodrama within the original opera as Dido decides to Kill herself so quickly a flaw I have always felt in Purcell's original score. I felt this was great evening, both Opera's were very excessable and I feel would appeal to a wide range of people, definatly check it out for yourself.