Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas staged by renowned Australian director Barrie Kosky premiered at the Frankfurt Opera seven years ago and after having appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in 2013, it will be back on the Frankfurt stage starting October 13.
Dido and Aeneas is one of the foremost works by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell and is regarded as the most important opera written by an English composer before Britten. Composed no later than 1688, the work is quite an enigma: unclear is the occasion of its first performance and unknown is its autograph score.
The story is based on Virgil’s Aeneid and in Purcell’s work it had most likely an allegorical intent.
On his return from the Trojan War, Aeneas falls in love with Dido, the widowed queen of Carthage. Dido replies his affection hesitantly as she suspects Aeneas will leave her soon. In fact, blinded by a charm, he breaks his tents in Carthage against his actual intention. Dido dies of a broken heart.
In Kosky’s staging, the whole action takes place on a narrow stage strip downstage, “as if the characters have been glued onto a strip of wall,” the director said. The bidimensional, depthless set designed by Katrin Lea Tag is composed of a full-width bench along which the characters move.
Right behind it, as a backdrop, an accordion curtain. Baroque is found in the colour palette, as well as among the terrific court costumes that range from the 17th to the 20th century. The rich costumes opposed to the geometric background and the changing spatial relationship among the figures create the whole scenography.
Dido and Aeneas is performed jointly with Kosky’s production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle in a “double-evening” that has enjoyed a great success during the past editions.