The opera “Dido and Aeneas”, directed by Blanca Li, shipwrecked from dance


Blanca Li in

William Christie was already at the helm of the enchanting production of the Dido and Aeneas de Purcell, by Deborah Warner, presented at the Opéra-Comique in December 2008 – evidenced by the publication of a recording the following year under the FRA Musica label, then on DVD and Blu-Ray by Naxos in 2022. But the wind of the gods has turned: this second collaboration of the founder of Les Arts florissants with a director is short. It must be said that the Madrid choreographer Blanca Li does tons of it, which solicits ad nauseam its six dancers (more or less undressed) in a flurry of movements, most often without any explicit connection to the music, like the many slides streaking the black stage covered with a thin film of water. We say to ourselves that the key to the problem may lie in the fact that a ballet version, without an orchestra, should be created next season.

Read also: Deborah Warner sublime “Dido and Aeneas”

Little or no acquaintance, therefore, with the dramaturgical plot, which narrates the passionate relationship of the Queen of Carthage and the Trojan hero, who will be summoned by Mercury (in reality a magician attached to the loss of Dido) to get rid of it. going to found the empire of Rome, after the destruction of Carthage. A choreographed prologue first transformed the dancers into players of musical instruments. Perched on columns, like stiff statues packed in crumpled metallic-looking costumes, the three main characters, Dido, her confidante Belinda and Aeneas, deprived of movement, are reduced to archetypes, which are summarily displaced by choristers and dancers. The liveliest part of the show is still the large “matter-light” canvases designed by the German visual artist Evi Keller, vast abstract paintings modulated, gilded and silvered by the moving lights of Caty Olive.

An original bias

The orchestra is on the garden side, on a podium which seems to serve as a raft. A little ridiculous, the erotic interlude between the lovers (still stuck on top of their relay antennas), mimicked in unequivocal dance gestures, amplified by the gasps and groans of the swoon choir. The only surprise will be to have entrusted the role of the Witch to Aeneas himself. A first and an original bias, justifies William Christie, who defends with this choice the unconscious duality of the Trojan prince, a devoted lover reluctantly, diverted from his tragic destiny, and released by an evil being – the one who is at the bottom of him.

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Nothing obvious for the ear and the understanding, when, instead of a woman’s timbre with sardonic imprecations and sarcastic sneers, the baritone of Renato Dolcini gets carried away, obviously more credible in Aeneas, even if the ‘one would have hoped for more marked violence and despair in his farewell to Dido (difficult, it is true, to be both sincere and deceitful). Faced with this monster, in the literal sense, Helen Charlston’s expressive and quivering Dido charms and moves, a rich voice with an opulent timbre, whose line is of unadorned nobility. At his side, the luminous soprano of Ana Vieira Leite, Belinda all in nuances, whose prosody is adorned with delicacy in emotion.

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