Theatre review: The Young Wife/Dido and Aeneas at the Kings Head

Young Wife - Maud Millar

Young Wife - Maud Millar - Credit: Archant

The double bill of operas currently playing at the Kings Head could not be more different and yet both in essence deal with the tragedy of womankind.

The first is a brand new opera by Katarzyna Brochocka based on a book by Gabriela Zapolska and the second is DIDO AND AENEAS by Henry Purcell and Nahum Tate in a new arrangement by Alex Beetschen and Harry Blake

‘The young Wife’ is a modernist work with just a solo soprano accompanied by the composer at the piano. Maud Miller sings the role of a young woman who is newly married but finds that her situation does not satisfy her emotionally or intellectually. She thinks constantly about another young man with whom she acted the part of a young wife years ago, and finds that the real husband does not live up to the one in the play. Finally she discovers the reason for her husband’s ill treatment of her and enacts a kind of mental revenge on him. The story is a short one, but the composer has extensive piano solos in between each piece of dialogue which in my opinion makes it rather too long despite director Robin Norton Hale’s clever staging during these interludes.

The second opera is a new version of Purcell’s baroque opera which oddly enough- was first performed in a girls’ school in the seventeenth century. The authors have set this in ‘Carthage High School’ with Dido as carnival queen and the witches played by cheerleading girls in short skirts and wielding pompoms. Dido is in love with Aeneas, heroic captain of The Trojans football team and they have a passionate affair. The jealous ‘witches’ make a successful plan to destroy her and create a suitably operatic tragic ending. Director Valentina Ceschi has provided fun supplied by the cheerleaders who keep breaking into their pompom routines.

Though a great fan of OperaUpClose I do not find this their finest hour, but the singing throughout is as always superb and the biggest vocal honours of the evening go to the thrilling voices of Zarah Hible as Dido and Ian Beadle as Aeneas.

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Until March 29

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