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Astounding collaborative production of Dido and Aeneas delights sell-out audiences

The cast of Dido and Aeneas

A multi-departmental production was staged in the Hallam Hall as audiences stepped back in time to Ancient Greece to watch performances of ‘Dido and Aeneas’.

The play, as we know it now, is based on Virgil’s poem ‘The Aeneid’, which was written in the first century BC. The poem follows the tragic love story of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the Trojan Prince Aeneas as they discover whether their loyalty is to their heart or their duty. Composer Henry Purcell set the fourth book of the epic poem to music in the 17th Century and created the opera that is still performed to this day.

After fleeing the burning city of Troy, Prince Aeneas vows to raise an army to exact his revenge over the Greeks. While on his journey he meets the beautiful Queen Dido. The pair soon fall in love but are forced apart after a sorceress tricks Aeneas into abandoning Dido in favour of sailing to Italy to create his new city.

The production was created collaboratively between the Music, Dance and Classics departments – with many talented pupils singing and dancing in the production.

The Chamber Choir and Orchestra expertly brought Purcell’s compositions to life and musicians Ella Moran and Ben Wood played the title roles.

Dance Teacher Mrs Downing also worked with the dancers to create choreography in the style of American Choreographer Mark Morris. In addition, A-level Classics students created three exclusive scenes which portrayed the thoughts of Dido throughout the play.

Director of Music Mr Dow said: “It was a really stunning achievement and all of the pupils involved should be immensely proud. I thought the whole thing was incredibly beautiful and it was so lovely to see musicians, dancers, actors and lighting experts all working so well together to produce such a wonderful performance.

“The standard was exceptionally high and it was fantastic to see our pupils tackle and perform such a challenging piece of 17th-century Baroque opera with such total dedication, passion and skill.”

Fifth Year Anjali Abraham said: “I had so much fun doing Dido and Aeneas because it was such a unique experience and the music is amazing. I am so grateful that I was able to take part in it – singing and dancing – because it gave me a really good understanding of the opera and the opportunity to develop my singing skills and look at new stylised dances specific to the storyline. I can’t think of anywhere that I would be able to do something like this again and I loved every part of it. I will probably have all of the songs in my head for a very long time!”

Sixth Former Ben Wood commented: “Performing in Dido and Aeneas was definitely a great experience, especially studying the Aeneid in Classics. Having the opportunity to perform as a key figure such as Aeneas was a great experience for my musical future and my Classics enjoyment.”

Fourth Year Rosie Moore remarked: “Dido and Aeneas was extremely fun to dance and sing in. Everybody did so well and the experience helped me make new friends. It would be great to have more collaborations between the Music and Dance departments in the future.”

Classics Teacher Mr Thorley observed: “What an amazing accomplishment – it was an ambitious idea but delivered so well in terms of quality, pupil numbers and pupil engagement. The pupils I spoke to were so proud to be involved in something so different and the sense of camaraderie was really touching. The depth of vocal talent was very impressive and the dancing was so clever and intricate – really stunning and at least as good as anything I have seen at SGS.”

Singing Teacher Mrs Mikic added: “Congratulations to everyone involved on an absolutely superb production – I was blown away by it: the standard of all the various disciplines was incredibly high and came together to create a unique and magical theatrical experience. The impression the play left stayed in my mind all weekend and is up there with some of the most memorable performances I have ever attended.”

Musician Simon Mercer, who played the Organ Continuo part in the Orchestra, said: “It was a great privilege to be invited to perform. A sublime experience, exquisite music in a beautifully fresh and innovative interpretation, glorious young voices and deft, understated musical direction. Perfection!”

One member of the audience exclaimed: “Well I can safely say I was blown away! The music, vocals, choreography and script worked perfectly. To get so many students in such a small space to interact seamlessly was nothing short of miraculous. The quality of the vocals was outstanding.”

Another audience member concluded: “It was such a fabulous evening – right from the very first note to the end. All those skilled and talented young adults gave us a night to remember forever.”