Libretto by Nahum Tate
Commissioned by King's College London and first performed at the university by Helios Collective on the 12th October 2016 with Leo Geyer (conductor), Ella Marchment (director),
Simeon John-Wake (movement director), and Frankie Bradeshaw (designer).
SECOND WOMAN soprano
1ST WITCH soprano
2nd WITCH soprano
COURTIERS / SAILORS / WITCHES chorus
(4 Sailors are needed for quartet)
strings | harpsichord doubling chamber organ | theorbo
A theatre director looks at an opera and asks, ‘how can this tell us something important about ourselves?’; a musical director looks at it and says, ‘what did the composer want?’ While actors are encouraged to innovate, musicians are expected to reproduce. But why shouldn’t the performance be as creative in music as on stage? That’s the question we ask with ‘Dido & Belinda’. Leo Geyer’s brilliant score retains all Purcell’s music but reinterprets it through expressivity and stylistic nuance, supporting a rereading of the libretto in which Dido and Belinda conspire with the witches to drive Aeneas and his laddish crew out of Carthage, allowing the lovers to elope from the stiflingly conventional court under cover of Dido’s pretend suicide (the ‘lament’ as fake suicide note). The score encourages the performers to explore further possibilities and challenges beliefs about proper music performance, sparking lively debate among audiences. [Prof. Daniel Leach-Wilkinson]
It's London fashion week, and Dido, a top model born into the Carthage fashion label, is now the face of the family brand. We find her struggling with the pressure, media attention and above all her inner turmoil at seeing Aeneas, who has returned after a two-year absence at sea, and expects to marry her to secure his elite social status. Dido looks for comfort in her lover Belinda, but Aeneas soon appears. The proposed marriage appears to be the ideal match between two celebrities and is feted by all. Dido and Belinda resolve to take a different path and, while Aeneas and his posse celebrate the forthcoming marriage, they escape to find help.
Dido and Belinda find themselves in a different world – in a downtown club that fizzes with liberated female power, freedom and energy. Dido summons up the courage to ask them for help to get rid of Aeneas's unwanted attention, and the Sorceress vows to help them both. Before her plan is put into action she and the witches test the trustworthiness of the two lovers.
Dazed and confused, Dido and Belinda wake to find themselves in the woods. They put on disguises as Aeneas interrupts his hunt for foxes and women. Dido and Belinda watch as he stalks his prey, and Belinda holds Dido back before she reveals herself too early in the plan. The witches appear and conjure up a storm to stall Aeneas. Belinda, now in disguise as the prostitute Mercury, seduces Aeneas, which Dido catches on camera. The humiliated Aeneas is left to curse his own misfortune and promises to leave in the morning.
Aeneas's drunk sailors sing and dance the night away at the dock while the Witches and the Sorceress put the last part of the plan into action. They resolve to create a storm to sink Aeneas's ship, and then in a frenzy of bloodthirsty violence beat the drunken sailors to near-unconsciousness to punish them for their lack of respect for women. Dido calls a press conference, and Aeneas returns to plead with Dido to take him back. Dido feigns sadness but commands him to go. As the press leave, Dido and Belinda, bring the plan to its conclusion and write Dido's suicide note. They then stage her death, and her note is read to her friends who express their sorrow. The witches reappear, in disguise, to “take care” of the body, and as the public depart Dido and Belinda escape to a new life of anonymity.
This work is available to hire. Please get in touch to find out more.
Please note that this music is in copyright and it is illegal to copy or perform from the perusal score.
Full production video and interviews from the premiere production
14th Oct 2016 - Helios Collective at Kings College London
13th Oct 2016 - Helios Collective at Kings College London
12th Oct 2016 - Helios Collective at Kings College London