Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (Dido et Énée) at the Aix-en-Provence Festival 2018 in a setting that confronts its Mediterranean context. Dido, a refugee from Tyre in what's now the Lebanon,found refuge on the coast of North Africa and founded the city of Carthage. Aeneas fled his homeland after it was destroyed by war. For Virgil and his audiences the saga was contemporary. The Roman empire was seaborne : Carthage was a place they knew. Purcell's opera based on Nahum Tate's adaptation of Virgil was necessarily removed from context. But modern audiences cannot, if they have any conscience, escape images of refugees on small boats at sea, or dying in the attempt. So this staging at Aix is perfectly valid and extends impact. Before the opera begins, the singer Rokia Traoré, wrapped in a blanket like so many African refugees even today, recounts the background. The text by Maylis de Kerangal descibes the perils and anguish of forced exile. Being a refugee in those circustaces is not an easy option. Though Purcell's music accompanied her entry onto the darkened stage when Traoré sings "Je suis Didon", she's accompanied by a North African n'goni ( a kind of lute) Then she sings a chant. Dido becomes a person, an individual with a past, not just a figure in a play. Extremely moving.
The opera proper begins when the cast file in onto a set resembling a pier in an anonymous port. Anaïk Morel sings Didon, Sophia Burgos her sister Belinda. Tobias Greenhalgh sings Aeneas, and Lucile Richardot the Sorceress. The orchestra and choir are Ensemble Pygmalion, baroque specialists, conducted here by Vaclav Luks. The director is Vincent Huguet, mentored by Patrice Chéreau. A stylish performance well paced and expressive : nothing prissy about the baroque ! Enjoy it nhere on arte.tv.fr.
Please also see my pieces
Les Funérailles de Louis XIV (Pygmalion Ensemble) and
Perpetual Night - early English Baroque airs - Lucile Richardot Ensemble Correspondances