Oriana Singers bring "Dido and Aeneas" to life

BURLINGTON Finally spring is here and with spring always come tales of love. One of the most famous tales of love is that of Dido, the queen of Carthage and the Trojan leader Aeneas. The tale was originally developed out of Virgils Aeneid, and later it was famously set to music by the great English Baroque composer, Henry Purcell. On April 5 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Burlington this story of love, witchcraft and tragedy came to life as the Oriana Singers put together another splendid performance. In addition to fantastic singing displayed by all members of this group, fine acting prevailed. It seemed like a challenging feat to dramatize an opera on such a small stage, and to be able to sell its sincerity. However, the stage direction and spectacular singing kept me entertained until the last note was played. The last two acts of the opera were particularly well directed. Each entrance and exit was seamless, even though several actors played multiple parts. Aimee Bushey and Judy Rosenbaum were terrific at facial acting and bodily expression. In one moment they were casting evil deeds with red gloves and evil facial expressions; in the next, they transformed into the Spirit of Mercury, and a well-wisher of Dido. I was impressed with their ability to sell these small but crucial rolls in such a diametrically opposed fashion. Another highlight occurred later when Dido sings one of the most famous and beautiful songs in the history of opera, When I Am Laid in Earth. As she dies, she grips the hands of her servant Belinda; and steadily progresses toward her dramatic final fall to the ground. She is then covered with a white veil and flowers are placed around her body. She is symbolically a bride of death instead of the bride of her true love Aeneas. Due to the emotional nature of the song, and the visual stimulation evoked from the directing, these subtleties leave the viewer entranced by the tragedy. The highlight of the night was truly the spectacular singing done by all soloists. Dido, played by Shyla Nelson, was just outstanding! In every scene that she performed, her rich voice and graceful manner was nothing short of royal. Jane Snyder who played Belinda, sang her riffs and runs with apparent ease and her light soprano voice was always pleasing. Aeneas, played by William Bickford also did a fantastic singing job as he displayed a top notch tonal quality. I really hope that the Oriana Singers choose to do more pieces which include dramatization, because they really did an excellent job. One final note: the four string players, led by Scott Metcalfe, violin, were a model of world-class playing and Baroque style, not to mention the incredible playing of Elizabeth Metcalfe, and presiding over all was William Metcalfe.

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