Opera: Waltz beyond the sea

No production has brought together so many intriguing elements as Dido and Aeneas hosted by The Israeli Opera.

dido 88 (photo credit:)
dido 88
(photo credit: )
A giant aquarium. Lithe bodies appearing and disappearing through secret passages. A tragic love story retold. These are the components comprising German choreographer Sasha Waltz's interpretation of the opera, Dido and Aeneas. This turbulent tale has been produced by many, from Virgil to Marlowe to Pina Bausch, yet no production has brought together so many intriguing elements as Waltz's masterpiece hosted by The Israeli Opera. This impeccable production of Henry Purcell's opera is the ensemble effort of Waltz's cast of fine dancers, acclaimed musicians of The Akademie fur Alte Music Berlin Orchestra and enchanting singers of The Vocalconsort Berlin. The cherry on top of this dramatic mélange are two soloists from Staastoper Unter Den Linden from Berlin and British conductor Christopher Moulds. This week's spectacle, Dido and Aeneas is a fresh new look at an old classic. The characters of Dido and Aeneas are each portrayed by both a singer and dancer. Aurore Ugolin and Reuben Wilcox, who powerfully sing the leads, also move with grace and, at times, blend in perfectly with Waltz's skilled dancers, weaving their way in and out of the crowd. "Ugolin sings a gorgeously soft-grained Dido," writes The Independent's Jenny Gilbert. Wilcox, who is both physically and vocally astounding, is undeniably believable as the war hero Aeneas. Matching Wilcox is Lithuanian dancer Virgis Puodziunas, a long time member of Waltz's company. The role of Dido is danced by two women, Yael Schnell and Michal Mualem, both Israeli. Waltz founded Sasha Waltz and Guests in 1993 along with Jochen Sandig. Performing all over the world with a diverse repertory of over forty pieces, the company has become one of the most highly recognized European dance group. Waltz, whose choreography has often been compared to the work of Master Pina Bausch, "is known for breaking boundaries with her hard-edged tanztheater [political dance] style," writes David Mead of Dancing Times. Israeli audiences, no strangers to complex themes and experimental dramatics, are sure to receive Waltz's work enthusiastically. The venture into the world of dance opera won Waltz further praise as a visionary of our time. "She has reached new heights of ambition in terms of scale, budget and artistic endeavor," writes Dance Insider's Josephine Leask. In relation to other opera productions in Israel, Dido and Aeneas sets a new standard. The story of this opera, like most any, is about great love and great heartache. Before Aeneas founded Rome, he was a Trojan soldier. When Troy fell, he left with his followers in seven ships and shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage, the great African city ruled by Queen Dido. Aeneas and Dido fell deeply in love, but the gods called Aeneas away to fulfill his destiny in Italy, leaving Dido heartbroken and alone. In her despair, she built a funeral pyre and committed suicide atop it. This horribly tragic story provides the platform for heartfelt arias and heart-wrenching interludes. To convey the importance of the sea in this tragedy, Waltz centered much of the action on an enormous aquarium constructed especially for this production and set at center stage. Throughout the performance dancers swim, wade and are reflected in the pool's water. Finally, as Dido is left to suffer her solitude, the pool empties to signify the evaporation of her hope for love. Josephine Leask wrote, "the visual effect is like a detail from a Boticelli painting." The synergy that Waltz has created with this mega-production is appealing from all angles. Dance patrons will have the opportunity to see one of Europe's top companies perform here in Tel Aviv. Opera lovers will flock to see new life breathed into one of Purcell's great works, and classical music aficionados will be lulled by an internationally renowned German orchestra. Dido and Aeneas introduces virgin and veteran audiences alike to the back door of the opera and new horizons beyond the sea. Dido and Aeneas runs from June 3-8 with tickets ranging from NIS 230 - NIS 469. Backstage tours are available on 3 & 4 June at 7 p.m. for NIS 20. For more information call (03) 692-7777 or visit www.israel-opera.co.il.