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Low budget, high value

Alice Busch Theater
08/02/2009 -  & 9*, 16, 23 August
Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas
Tamara Mumford (Dido), David Adam Moore (Aeneas), Anthony Roth Costanzo (Sorceress), Joëlle Harvey (Belinda), Hannah Dixon (Second Woman), Kathryn Guthrie (First Witch), Liza Forrester (Second Witch), Brittany Wheeler (Spirit), Rebecca Jo Loeb (Sailor)
Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Michael Beattie (Conductor)
Jonathan Miller (Director), Ada Smith (Scenery Designer), Jeff Harris (Lighting Designer)

T. Mumford & D.A. Moore (© Richard Termine/Glimmerglass Opera)

Glimmerglass in recent years has presented four fully staged opera productions each season. Some belt-tightening is called for during the current economic situation and accordingly Dido and Aeneas is presented as a “concert dramatization”. As it turns out, under Jonathan Miller’s deft direction, it is more dramatization than concert, and very effective as that.

Anticipating a budgetary production, one expected that performers from the other three productions would be slotted into the various roles. But no, principals and conductor Michael Beattie have been engaged specifically for the brief run.

The simple design consists of two off-white panels leaving a gap in the middle. This opening makes for quick entrances and exits for the chorus, who are dressed, like the principals, in casual street clothes. The only costuming touch is having them wear hooded sweatshirts (“hoodies”) when appearing as the witches. The hoodie is the sartorial symbol of the disaffected yobbo in the UK, and the witches have a cockney accent (“Destruction’s our deloit”, etc.) Anthony Roth Costanzo as their leader, the Sorceress, has an outstanding voice. We eagerly anticipate his return to the festival next season, in the title role in Handel’s Tolomeo.

Tamara Mumford is an expressive Dido and David Adam Moore is handsome in voice and presence as Aeneas. Another amusing touch is having him getting impatient with Belinda’s unnecessary advice to “Pursue thy conquest”. The latter role is ably sung by Joëlle Harvey.

A four-person continuo (with two harpsichords, one played by conductor Beattie) is supplemented by a small number of string players. This modest ensemble - with the pit raised - gives sufficient sonority to the score.

Dr. Miller’s Dido and Aeneas, like this season’s La Cenerentola, is a successful example of updated staging. It is the first Purcell work ever presented at Glimmerglass; it is a pity that it has only four performances.

Michael Johnson



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