By Yasmin Inkersole, Third Year English
Dido and Aeneas, part of Bristol University Operatic Society's BOpSFest, didn’t fail to impress: this spectacular performance sees Dido, the famous classical figure and first queen of Carthage, transported into the weird and wild modern world of a uni student.
BOpS performances are always ones to keep your eyes peeled for. This show, part of BOpSFest, didn’t fail to impress: maintained by very high standards of singing, acting and storytelling, it’s difficult to imagine that this was a student production. Annie Garry played the titular figure of Dido, a heartbroken young woman who looks to her best friend and student housemate, Belinda (Issy Roberts) for comfort. As it turns out, Belinda is not only a great friend but a total wingwoman. She encourages Dido to invite Aenaes (Michael Burgess) to the party, as she thinks they would be a good match.
Lo and behold, Aenaes shows up, and of course it’s love at first sight! However, three cunning witches - Poppy Storey, Beatrice Convert and Rosa Witts - have it in for the young couple and conspire to break them up. What ensues is the famous and tragic tale of Dido’s abandonment, as Aeneas is tricked into leaving her to return to the sea.
The story of Dido and Aeneas is age old, and this surely poses an obstacle to any performance of it. How can you tell a story in an exciting way when the audience already knows the ending? The decision to set this version of the classic tale in the world of the twenty-first century student was a choice that paid off. Surprisingly, Dido has much in common with today’s university student. Her experiences of young love, friendship and mental health struggles are unexpectedly relatable.
The performance does deal with difficult themes such as depression and suicide. It was especially thoughtful that a collector for Bristol Nightline was present, and attendees given ample disclosure of the heavy topics being portrayed. Dido’s story was treated with professionalism and care. While there were some genuinely hilarious moments in this performance- notably when the cast rushed on stage for a rave and promptly found themselves outside a kebab shop afterwards- Dido’s declining mental health was given the space and seriousness it deserved. The choice for Dido’s suicide to occur off-stage while the rest of the cast stood, dimly lit and singing of her troubles, was a moving and powerful end to the show.
Overall Dido and Aeneas was another resounding success for BOpS, maintaining the high standards of vocal skill seen over the years. The next event held by the society will be the Christmas Oratorio, held in the beautiful St. Stephen’s Church. If you need a dose of festive spirit make sure to get yourself a ticket, it’s sure to be a night to remember.
Featured image credit: Bristol University Operatic Society / Dido and Aeneas
Did you see Dido and Aeneas? What did you think of the performance?