“Dido & Aeneas” by Henry Purcell was performed at Ysgol John Bright in November 2008.
The one-off performance was a very special one. It was put together in secret in just seven weeks as a way of saying thank you for the many years of support, leadership and guidance Mrs Irene Scott Perry had given to the pupils of Ysgol John Bright as Headteacher. Departments from around the school came together to create what was a memorable occasion for all involved.
It was the first time in recent memory that an opera has been staged at YJB – a testimony to the hard work and talents of our students. It was fitting that pupils from every year group were involved onstage, reflecting the inclusive nature of the music department.
During the interval, a selection of Greek tapas (in keeping with the Greek theme of the production) showcased the talents of our catering department. Scroll down for photos of the evening.
Dido (Elissa, Queen of Carthage) – Michaela Parry
Aeneas (Prince of Troy) – Nathan Bellis
Belinda (Lady in Waiting to Dido) – Bethan Foster
Second Woman – Chloe Keenan
Sorcerer – Matthew Davies
First Witch – Kirsty Jones
Second Witch – Abby Restall
Spirit – Miss Lona Jones
Sailor – Louis Akincay
(The Bel Canto Chamber Choir)
Sarah Bowen (soloist)
Rebecca Hornby Jones
Conductor – Miss Siân Rees
Violin I – Mr Nick Hardisty
Violin II – Mr Sam Ellis
Viola Ms – Lorna Todd
Cello – Mr Tim Cotter
Harpsichord – Dr Chris Collins
Musical Director – Miss Siân Rees
Director – Mrs Susan Collins
Choreography – Miss Nicki Walker, Sarah Bowen
Costumes – Ms Jane Lauritzen, Ms Charlotte Lloyd
Lighting – Emma Gibson
Event Manager – Mrs Jill Jones
Dido and Aeneas is believed to have been composed in 1684, probably as an entertainment for the royal court. Henry Purcell was one of the leading British composers of his time, and Dido is one of the oldest surviving operas in English. It has a long history of performances in schools –the earliest reported performance was at Josiah Priest’s Boarding School in 1689. The plot is based upon a story from the fourth book of Virgil’s Aeneid about the doomed love affair between the legendary Queen of Carthage, Dido, and the Trojan Prince, Aeneas.
Scene 1: Dido’s Court
Dido, Queen of Carthage, is with her courtiers. Belinda, her lady inwaiting, tries to cheer up Dido who is hiding a secret grief. Belinda correctlyguesses that Dido is torn between her love for her country, and for the warriorprince Aeneas. Belinda encourages Dido to be bold and accept the proposal ofmarriage, as it would unite the two countries and resolve many long runningdisputes. When Aeneas arrives, he is received coldly at first, but Didogradually warms to him and accepts his proposal.
Scene 2: The Sorcerer’s Cave
The evil sorcerer and his witches are plotting the destruction of Carthage and its queen. They sing of their hatred for all those who prosper. They plan to separate the newly engaged couple by sending an evil spirit disguised as a messenger from the gods, to demand that Aeneas returns to Troy, leaving Dido behind. The witches conjure up a storm to disrupt the celebrations and then retreat further into their echoing cave to prepare their evil spells.
Scene 1: The Grove
Dido and Aeneas celebrate their engagement with a picnic. Belinda sings of the beauty of their surroundings and then various entertainments are laid on for the royal couple – singing, dancing and poetry. Proceedings are disrupted by the approaching storm, conjured up by the witches. As the court hurries back to town, Aeneas is halted by an apparition. He believes the messenger has been sent by the mighty god Jove, and agrees to obey Jove’s will. But as he is left alone, he realizes what a tremendous sacrifice he will have to make. He blames the Gods, saying that it would be easier to die than leave Dido.
Scene 1: The Ships
The Trojan sailors begin preparations to sail home, following instructions from Aeneas. The sailors are encouraged to leave their girlfriends and take to the seas by vowing to return but with no intention to do so. The sorcerer and his witches enter with glee – their plot is working. The witches laugh at the thought of Elissa’s (Dido) downfall. The sorcerer then lays plansto create a storm at sea to kill Aeneas and all his sailors before setting Carthage alight. The chorus of witches delight in the plans, singing of the immense pleasure they get from destruction.
Scene 2: Dido’s Court
Dido has heard the news that Aeneas plans to leave, and is distraught.Belinda tries to console her and convince her that he is telling the truthabout the visitation from the Gods but Dido believes he has used her, and islying in order to leave. Dido and Aeneas argue, and although he offers tooffend the Gods and stay, she tells him it is too late – her heart is alreadybroken by the fact that he even considered leaving her. Aeneas departs and Dido contemplatesher future alone, reputation in tatters. She takes a dagger and stabs herself. As she dies, Dido sings of her regret at any trouble she has caused and urges Belinda to remember her without dwelling upon her fate. The opera ends with thecourtiers paying their respects at their Queen’s tomb.