HGO double bill: modern dress baroque opera as it would have sounded centuries ago

HGO's production of Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas casts the witches as cleaning ladies in a corporate office

HGO's production of Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas casts the witches as cleaning ladies in a corporate office - Credit: LaurentCompagnon

HGO Venus and Adonis/Dido and Aeneas

Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone

****

The Cockpit was a marvellous venue for HGO’s double header of baroque operas by John Blow and Henry Purcell.

Presented in the round, at the rear of the space, the seven-strong HGOAntiqua Orchestra led by harpsichord player Seb Gillot played on period instruments - capturing the authenticity of the score as it would have sounded 340 years ago.

The prologue to Venus and Adonis is set in a contemporary dating agency. Then we are whisked away to a mythical world where loved-up Venus (Issy Bridgeman - a powerful and sensitive voice in a small frame) has her world brutally shattered as Adonis (the expressive Lawrence Williams, looking not unlike a young Jeremy Hunt) dies, gored by a stag.

HGO's double bill of John Blow's Venus and Adonis and Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone

HGO's double bill of John Blow's Venus and Adonis and Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone - Credit: LaurentCompagnon

The action is charmingly augmented with snappy costume changes and some bucolic but rather limpid gambolling by a quartet of hunters and then Cupids. The translation to contemporary times continued post interval as Purcell’s magnificent Dido and Aeneas was dropped into the world of big business.

Director Jessica Dalton and her talented creative team triumphed, generating lots of humour as the chorus became corporate suits and the witches cleaning ladies. The quality of Purcell’s arrangements really raised their game. Both witches and chorus were simply terrific and, in a fairer world, would merit solo parts themselves.

HGO double bill at The Cockpit Theatre

HGO double bill at The Cockpit Theatre - Credit: Laurent Compagnon

The duet between the almost identical witches (Olivia Carrell and Abbie Ward) was musically top notch but from the off it was clear that Milette Gillow (Dido) has a magnificent voice: her heartrending rendition of Dido's Lament 'When I am laid in earth' reduced the equally
talented Anna Luise Wagner (Belinda) to tears during the curtain call.

Hampstead Garden Suburb's favourite opera company continues to deliver high quality performances that enthuse audiences and offer opportunities for the next generation of opera stars.