This week, Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra director David Shemer will supervise two performances of the opera Dido and Aeneas, based on the music of English baroque composer Henry Purcell.
The shows will take place at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance, at the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus.
Shemer spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the opera and working with the students.
Why did you choose to work on the tragic love story of Dido and Aeneas?
For me, this opera is one of the greatest musical pieces ever written. It is so extraordinarily true to human emotions and so moving. The music is so expressive and powerful. The piece is universal.
We all experience at different stages of our lives the feeling of being in love and of being abandoned. And also being furious and being torn by various urges such as what I have to do versus what I would like to do.
No matter where on the axis of time you put your finger, that feeling is always there. So the opera is eternally modern.
In the opera, Queen Dido of Carthage is in love with the Trojan Aeneas. An evil sorceress and her witches lure Aeneas away from Dido, who takes her own life in despair. Do you think this opera could take place today?
Absolutely. It could happen to any person who is married or in love and loses his or her lover. Or vice versa. If a person serving in the army has to decide whether to stay with his assignment or be with the one he loves. The choice is not always obvious, and it’s always hard. And there are always people who like to spoil somebody else’s fun, like the witch in the opera. It doesn’t have to be a witch, it can be a neighbor or someone else. Some of this opera could happen to any of us during a lifetime.
Isn’t it tragic that even when Aeneas decides to stay with Dido, she sends him away and kills herself only because he had the thought of leaving her?
Don’t we sometimes not accept someone’s apology that we probably should? People get ridiculously obstinate about their stands and don’t budge, and maybe they regret it later.
We don’t understand why Dido wouldn’t accept Aeneas’s apology, but there are many things in the story that we don’t understand.
What do you want to teach the students who work with this piece?
I think the main thing is really to make them feel the same kind of love for this kind of music that I do. I try to teach them most importantly how we can bring the music across to our listeners and how we as performers can take the imagination of the composer and work with it.
What do you expect from your students?
To know the opera inside out. Which means that they can recite the text and the music at any moment – backwards.
What do you like about working with students?
The energy. For me, a good student is a curious student. A good student always asks questions and always [thinks he/she] knows better than you. And that is challenging. So I love working with students.
Performances of ‘Dido and Aeneas’ will take place at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance Givat Ram Campus today and tomorrow at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. For more info call (02) 675-9911.