Top of page
Global Site Navigation
Local Section Navigation
You are here: Main Content

A new beginning marks world first for Dido and Aeneas

Monday, 18 April 2016


Henry Purcell's Baroque masterpiece Dido and Aeneas is one of the world’s most famous and beloved operas. Performed regularly around the world, this poignant tale of ill-fated lovers contains one of the most beautiful arias ever written, Dido’s When I am laid in earth.

Yet the opera as it is performed today is incomplete, with music from sections of the opera lost over time. The earliest surviving libretto for the work, dating from 1689, contains an entire Prologue, a chorus at the end of Act 2, eight dances and a spoken Epilogue – none of which have surviving music.

Now, in a world premiere, internationally celebrated Australian early music specialist and fortepianist Professor Geoffrey Lancaster AM has restored the opera to its original musical dimensions.

Thanks to Lancaster’s sensitive reconstruction of the missing music, audiences can now savour this classic English three-act opera in its miraculous entirety.

This exciting production brings together a wealth of talent from WAAPA’s Classical Vocal, Dance and Music departments, with 36 singers, 18 dancers and 12 musicians involved. The students perform under the musical direction of Dr Lancaster, who has recently been awarded one of WAAPA’s prestigious professorial research appointments, with direction by Glenda Linscott and choreography by Andries Weidemann.

Other support for this extraordinary production includes violinist/educator Professor Paul Wright, Nicole Stinton (Assistant Director) and WAAPA’s Head of Classical Vocal Studies Patricia Price.

Dido and Aeneas will be performed over four nights from Monday, 2 to Thursday, 5 May at 7.30pm in Hale School’s John Inverarity Music and Drama Centre in Wembley Downs.

Director Glenda Linscott believes it will be a thrilling experience for the audience, not only because of the rare opportunity to see such a huge cast performing on stage but because of Dr Lancaster’s perceptively reconstructed musical additions to the piece.

“Our production will be a world first,” Linscott says. “Geoffrey plans to publish the score so that musicians and audiences around the world will be able to enjoy it.”

Linscott explains that Lancaster’s musical reconstruction of the 50-minute Prologue is especially important in recreating a more authentic experience of what the performance would have been like in its day.

Dido and Aeneas was written just after the Civil War in England in the late 17th Century, when Charles II was restored to the throne,” she says. “After years of Puritan rule, during which music and dancing was banned, Charles II poured money into the arts, causing an explosion of creativity.”

“So the Prologue is a festival of dance, song, acting, high jinks and lots of very silly, sexy fun! It is the frivolous entree before the audience settles to the serious main of Dido and Aeneas, which tells the tragic story of two lovers who are torn apart by the competing needs of love and duty.”

This remarkable production is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to experience Dido and Aeneas in its full, magnificent glory.

For all venue and performance details, please visit the Dido and Aeneas performance web page.


Skip to top of page