Singing actors and dancing singers: Oscillations of genre, physical and vocal codes in two contemporary adaptations of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
University of Exeter
Studies in Musical Theatre
This article looks at two recent and widely recognized productions of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (by choreographer Sasha Waltz, Berlin 2005, and theatre-director Sebastian Nübling, Basel 2006) and discusses three main aspects: 1. Genre: coming from a Tanztheater (Waltz) and a Sprechtheater (Nübling) background, each director renegotiates conventions of the operatic genre, and consciously evades expectations in pursuit of a new and challenging experience for both the performers and their audience. 2. Physicality: both productions place the performers’ bodies at the forefront of the mise-en-scène – they remap the singing, dancing, acting body by questioning conventions and expectations commonly found in the production and reception process. 3. Adaptation: both productions take unconventional liberties by adapting in a domain where notions of Werktreue (fidelity to the original work or score) still reign. Adopting ideas from Nicholas Cook and Mikhail Bakhtin, I will argue that the conceptual, musical and theatrical implications of both productions indicate a renegotiation of the social and performative relevance of operatic performance.
Post-print version of article. © Intellect, 2007.