REVIEW: Venus and Adonis Dido AND Aeneas Hampstead Garden Opera Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate

PUBLISHED: 14:01 18 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

Purcell s Dido and Aeneas and John Blow s Venus and Adonis are contenders for the title of first genuine English opera and fit together well in a double-bill. Both

Venus and Adonis

Dido AND Aeneas

Hampstead Garden Opera

Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate

Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and John Blow's Venus and Adonis are contenders for the title of first genuine English opera and fit together well in a double-bill. Both are about abruptly terminated love. Both leave a woman on the stage alone, without her man. And this HGO production drew them even closer by super-imposing a modern narrative that played one as a sequel to the other.

The love between Venus and Adonis became an illicit affair carried out while Adonis was in the process of marriage to someone else. And the someone else turned out to be Dido who then (courtesy of Aeneas) became a woman spurned twice-over. Small wonder she killed herself.

In essence, these ideas were neat, though not in execution. The director James Hurley didn't keep enough control over the movement and, worse still, had people jiving to baroque tunes - one of the least forgiveable cliches of contemporary opera staging.

But there were good performances from Lucy de Butts as Cupid/Belinda, Rebecca Henning and Taylor Ott as a pair of decidedly perky witches and, above all, from Helen Bailey as a warm and secure Dido who delivered her lament in an interesting way - not as grand tragedy but as the pale, exhausted monologue of someone numbed by grief.

Michael White


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