Aeneas is the perfect guy — strong yet gentle, protective and attentive, not to mention good-looking. He’s also a Trojan hero.
Maybe he’s too perfect, which is reason enough for Dido’s mistrust.
For when something seems too good to be true, it usually is, and Aeneas will deceive her before all is said and done, thereby breaking Dido’s heart.
Then again, Dido has good reason for her suspicions, considering that she is a head of state, a position she takes seriously in LSU Opera’s production of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” The opera runs for two performances on Friday and Sunday in LSU’s Claude L. Shaver Theatre.
“Dido is interesting, because she’s almost godlike, yet her actions come from human emotions,” says Zoie Reams, who shares the role with fellow mezzo soprano Chelsey Geeting.
Reams, of Chicago, is working on her master’s degree in voice. She learned of the LSU Opera program while working with LSU Associate Professor of Voice Dennis Jesse at a summer program in Italy.
“I learned about the number of programs the opera program puts on each year,” Reams continues. “Not every program puts on this many operas, and I’m excited to be able to play Dido. She’s stately as the queen,” Reams continues. “Her emotions are on display for everyone to see.”
It’s not always good to be the queen, though.
“As leader, she’s responsible for the people, so people are always a part of what’s happening to her,” Reams says. “Her connection to her people is moving.”
This is why Dido considers marriage to Aeneas. It’s believed that peace and power would prevail in bonding between Carthage and Troy.
“Dido and Aeneas” is one of the earliest English operas. Purcell wrote it in 1689 for a girls’ boarding school, basing the story on Book IV of Virgil’s epic poem, “Aeneid.”
The opera plays out in three acts preceded by a prologue by Nahum Tate, which celebrates the joy of marriage between two monarchs. Many times, the prologue is left out of the performance, but LSU Opera Director Dugg McDonough considers it as important as the three acts.
“Dido and Aeneas” also calls for dancers, another important element to McDonough.
“We’re not using a set with this,” he says. “Everything is minimal. We’re using a screen and lighting and cloth,” McDonough. “The emphasis will be on the people and the story.”
Chorus members not only serve as characters but props while dancers portray nature’s elements.
All dancers in this production are members of the LSU Dance Ensemble, which is pulling double duty over the weekend. Ensemble Director Sandra Parks not only choreographed dances for the opera but coordinated the ensemble’s fall concert, set for Saturday and Sunday in the Reilly Theatre.
“The dancers in the opera couldn’t dance in the concert, because we have so many performances so close to each other this weekend,” Parks says. “So, I pulled these dancers for the opera. But it works out great, because it gives them more opportunities to participate in different kinds of productions.”
Parks incorporated a mixture of classical ballet and contemporary dance into the show. Dancers spin and twirl around chorus members as they sing among flowing strips of cloth enhanced by stage lights.
Parks also choreographed the singers’ moves, most notably sophomore Alisha Rosa’s wicked moves as the sorceress.
“We did some choreography for ‘Don Giovanni’ earlier in the season, but this opera calls for a lot of dance and movement,” Parks says. “It’s been great working with Dugg on this production.”
The story opens with Dido filled with sorrow, fearing that Aeneas will make a weak monarch. Her attendants assure their queen that Aeneas loves her.
And when Aeneas appears, well, he seems perfect. He dotes on Dido while the Sorceress plots the destruction of Carthage. The Sorceress knows if she can trick Aeneas into sailing for Italy, Dido will die from heartbreak.
Does Aeneas fall for it? And what will be Dido’s reaction if he does?
The answers are readily available on the Shaver stage this weekend, where the perfect guy may be too good to be true.