Dido & Aeneas 20.7.18

Blackheath Halls’ annual opera always has the community at its heart, with local residents and schoolkids performing alongside professionals and Trinity Laban music students. But this year the organisers took the idea one stage further – and included the audience too. Their home venue is currently being refurbished so the four-day run was moved down the road to the Albany in Deptford, where the performance space is in theround. This was too good an opportunity to miss for director Polly Graham and her production of Purcell’s tragedy Dido & Aeneas used every inch of the space available, including all the seating areas. It meant you were likely to find one of the stars singing next to you, even if you thought you were hidden away at the back of the upstairs gallery. It turned an already brilliant show into a truly immersive and wonderful experience. The musicianship on display was magnificent. German mezzo-soprano Idunnu Münch – in her UK debut – and baritone Marcus Farnsworth made a great title couple. The countertenor tones of William Towers as the sorcerer were nothing less than extraordinary and there were fine supporting performances by Alison Rose, Sofia Celenza, Rebecca Leggett, Jemma Mitchell, Guste Sinkeviciute, Jude Smith, Laura Kislick, Leia Joyce, Stanislaw Kochanowski-Tym and Zarofina Farodoye. And musical director Lee Reynolds kept the action moving in perfect harmony as he conducted the Blackheath Halls Opera Chorus and Orchestra, pupils from Greenvale School and Charlton Park Academy and members of the Royal Greenwich and Blackheath Halls Youth Choir. Designer April Dalton created a terrific set that allowed Graham and her team to forge an unforgettable performance. A particular highlight was The Three Fates who wrote the protagonists’ tragic destiny in chalk on the floor throughout the performance. It was genuinely moving – and chilling. This is going to be a tough act to follow for the organisers of next year’s opera. I can’t wait to see how they get on.

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