by Laura Durham, 15 Bytes Music Editor
This Friday and Saturday Westminster will showcase its first fully-staged opera. Written by Henry Purcell in 17th Century England, the opera is 400 years old, but you wouldn’t know it watching this particular production.
Those familiar with the story know Dido as the queen of Carthage in ancient Tunisia, but director Michael Chipman decided to portray Dido as a wealthy socialite living in New York City who suffers from depression and a torturous relationship with reality. “She must deal with her inner demons and the outside pressures from her friends and family to keep a relationship with Aeneas, who is both wealthy and famous. Can Dido deal with her issues without resorting to prescription drugs? Does her high-pressure social life become too much for her to take?” – sounds a bit like a teaser for the next installment of Entertainment Tonight. But the fact of the matter is, Dido’s story is the stuff of opera composers’ (and Hollywood’s) dreams: politics, love, betrayal and the death of a beautiful woman.
“Her first line in the opera is, ‘I am pressed with torment’,” said Chipman. “As I read the words and listened to Purcell’s gorgeous, melancholy music, what emerged was not an ancient story, but one that could be happening right now. The exciting thing about staging this opera in a contemporary setting is that it forces the audience to confront Dido’s pain as a contemporary reality, not as an ancient malady. Dido could be you or me or someone we know and love, which makes her story all the more powerful.”
Chipman says Westminster is the perfect place for chamber opera because the small school has intimate venues where the audiences can see every facial expression and hear every musical nuance. “Between the excellent student cast, and the best chamber musicians we could find, this opera will be a memorable event, and hopefully the beginning of a long tradition at Westminster,” said Chipman.
Musical direction for the opera includes Brian Stucki as conductor, Kimi Kawashima on harpsichord and a professional string quartet headed up by Gerald Elias, former associate concert master of the Utah Symphony.
Westminster Opera Studio
Opera – Dido and Aeneas
Jay W. Lees Courage Theatre, Jewett Center for the Performing Arts
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah
January 11 & 12, 7:30pm
You have a resolution to add a variety of culture in your life, AND you always wanted to see an opera without using those silly spectacles .
Tickets for Dido and Aeneas are $5 for general admission, and can be purchased through the Westminster Box Office at 801.832.2457, or https://www.ezticketlive.com/checkout/event_view.asp?id=21
Laura Durham works for KUED Channel-7 in the Creative Services Department, curating community engagement projects for both PBS and KUED productions that foster trust and value to the communities in Utah. She also produces Contact with Mary Dickson and Contact in the Community — a digital series featuring arts and culture groups in Utah. Prior to her work at KUED, Laura spent 15 years at the Utah Division of Arts & Museums in the visual arts program and later managing communications, branding, marketing, and public value projects for all arts and museums programming. She has served the Utah community in various capacities with her role as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association and Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll. She lives in Salt Lake City, sings with Utah Chamber Artists, and loves to contribute to 15 Bytes as often as time allows.