Sunday, October 17, 2010

REVIEW: Dido and Aeneas at the 24th Macao International Music Festival

The performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, as part of the 24th Macao International Music Festival on October 17, gave me the opportunity to see the much talked about Dom Pedro V Theatre. The theatre out-performed the opera.

Dom Pedro V Theatre, built in 1860 is the first western-style theatre in China. With a capacity of only 300, having any expensive production in this theatre is a luxury. The neo-classical design was consistent throughout and was such a personal, petite and perfect theatre for a production of Dido and Aeneas.

This Dido and Aeneas is directed and lighting designed by no other than Maurizio di Mattia, the same person who did the disappointing La Boheme production of the Opera Hong Kong. Partnering with same costume designer Anna Biagiotti (assuming same person as Anna Bagiotti as listed in the programme), but with a different set and video designer, Andrea Miglio, the whole production was a more successful. Aside from the mirror-like backdrop material looking totally out of place and very disco-like, the production was effectively simple with two over-lapping string curtains serving as screens for frontal projections.

Macao Orchestra, led by conductor and harpsichordist Marshall McGuire, was fluid and eloquent. The cast in general was balanced, but a bit too heavy for my taste. They were very competent singers but just didn’t fit how I perceive baroque music ought to be performed. For one, most of the vibratos were very wide or pronounced that it interfered with a lot of the coloratura divisions.

Rebecca Ringle as Dido possessed a smoky dark mezzo voice that roles such as Azucena came into my mind. As much as it was an unusual choice, I actually enjoyed her performance. She and Belinda, sang by Sharin Apostolou, worked wonderfully together vocally and dramatically. Kenneth Mattice’s Aeneas was memorable for the wrong reason. While dramatically strong, the wobble in his voice was distracting.

Peculiarly, the Sorceress, usually sang by a mezzo, was amply performed by the very tall bass Paul Goodwin-Groen. This was a nice switch and it vocally balanced off a predominantly female cast. Jim Price as the first sailor provided one of the most sincere performances in the opera, his diction was clear and his voice didn’t sounded too big or heavy for the opera and the theatre.

Tijana Grujic and Magaret Peterson was fabulously wicked in their portrayal of the first and second witches. The chorus, provided by Dolce Voce Choir was tight and provided some beautiful moments in the opera.

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