Music Department performs ‘Dido and Aeneas’ opera

Union's department of music presents "Dido and Aeneas," an opera by Henry Purcell, directed by Stanley Warren. Gillian Frank, senior music performance major, sings to Dido. | Photo by Ebbie Davis

By Katlyn Moncada

The house lights dimmed as a red backdrop illuminated the stage. Violins began to fill the room with a soft serenade. The chorus took its place and the spotlight directed the audience’s attention toward center stage.

“Dido and Aeneas,” an opera by Henry Purcell, was performed by the Department of Music Feb. 21.

Based on Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid,” the opera was adapted as one of two total English operas put out in 17th century. The story revolves around the tragic love story between Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the Trojan prince Aeneas.

The cast of the opera adorned costumes relevant to the ancient time period. The females wore draped, colorful dresses. The sorceress and her aides had shiny or feathered headpieces to complete the look. Aeneas wore a suit of armor for his role as a prince and soldier.

To play the role of Dido, Angela Canestrari, junior voice performance major, began researching her part as soon as she received it last summer. The cast began rehearsing in August. Canestrari said she had to train her voice for the role.

“I had to find a sound that was pure and soft at the same time,” Canestrari said.

Gillian Frank, senior voice performance major, learned the different style of music and language fairly easily. However, Frank said she had some difficulty with the wardrobe changes since she played two separate roles in the opera — first a witch and then a woman.

Hope Putnam, sophomore social work major, was pleasantly surprised by the voices in the performance. She said the story had a simple plot and was easy to follow. Putnam was especially impressed by Canestrari’s performance as Dido.

“Her facial expressions helped me understand her feelings for specific scenes,” Putnam said.

Middle Tennessee’s Music City Baroque provided the music with period instruments of violin, viola, cello and harpsichord. The sounds of these

instruments blending together with the voices on stage and the chorus mesmerized

the audience into the tragic love story.

While students from an opera workshop class hold a performance each semester, full-length operas at Union are rare. Dr. Stanley Warren, professor of music, said the opera was on a larger scale than previous performances.

“I would love to see our performances, our budget and our audiences keep growing,” Warren said.

Proceeds from “Dido and Aeneas” will help fund a choir trip to Italy in March.

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