23 May Aeneas and Dido
Commissioner: Toronto Masque Theatre (Artistic Director Larry Beckwith) with the assistance of The Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: 25 – 28 April 2007, Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ontario
Performers: 5 voices (3 sopranos, mezzo, baritone), 7 early instruments A415 (recorder, oboe, lute/theorbo, harpsichord/organ, violin, viola, cello). May also be performed on early or modern instruments at A440.
Duration: 35 minutes (6 scenes)
Both Purcell’s and Virgil’s versions of Dido and Aeneas feature an Aeneas who is a man of action. He is what he does, in contrast to Dido, who is what she feels. Aeneas and Dido tries to imagine Aeneas’s interior life. What drives Aeneas to choose an uncertain quest for a new homeland over Dido’s offer of love and country? His heart has been turned to ashes by witnessing the violence visited upon his Troy. Dido’s heart still aches from her husband’s death, yet she plucks up the courage to confess her love to Aeneas, making his rejection unbearably painful. Immersed as they are in their own suffering, they cannot grasp each other’s.
And then there’s the score. Rolfe’s music is so easy to enjoy, it’s like the musical version of being articulate. It’s not at all spare or simplistic. In fact it often seems to skate towards dissonance and discord, but in a way that compels rather than challenges. There’s a visceral intelligence that pulls you along. And you’ll wonder how such insanely modern sounds are being pulled out of period instruments.
Aeneas and Dido is an impressive follow-up to Rolfe’s justly praised mini-opera Swoon, a class-comedy set in Rosedale that debuted at the Canadian Opera Company a few months ago. Another work, raW, recently won the Jules Leger Prize for New Chamber Music. Someone has to commission this guy to do a full-length work.
– Gord McLaughlin, Toronto Eye Weekly, 27 April 2007