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La voix humaine & Dido and Aeneas

Opera North

The Lowry, 12 March 2013

Dido and Aeneas

There is a similarity of theme – a woman forsaken, despairing, betrayed by her betrothed – but there’s no denying which piece packs the greater emotional punch.

Jean Cocteau, unlike his lover Raymond Radiguet, had very little understanding of women.  He gives us a woman – Elle, a brave performance by Lesley Garrett – who is in essence a hysterical butterfly, flitting hither and thither.  It is weak emotion, ultimately uninvolving and soon dissipated.

To do despair, melancholy, profound sorrow aright, you need – though let’s not be too chauvinistic about this – the English Renaissance; and Henry Purcell’s music together with Nahum Tate’s libretto, especially the final aria, is as fine as any of John Dowland’s songs.  That sentiment about death being now a welcome guest, the refrain: Remember me! / But ah, forget my fate!

The choreography here, what with the dancers aligned at times along a wall of the stage, had faint echoes of Café Muller, which is likely to be homage rather than coincidence.  Pina Bausch memorably used Dido’s lament in her classic work.

Future tour dates of both productions can be seen here.