Photo credit – Priscilla Northe. Striped trees productions.
Dido and Aeneas: Recomposed is a fringe fest style opera brought to BATS by UnstuckOpera. Directed by long time Wellington creative Frances Moore and re-composed by one of NZ’s leading young composers, Alex Taylor, their re-work of Henry Purcell’s classic includes samples from Stravinsky, Jazz Greats, and even Beyoncé and is performed by singers in over-the-top gowns, crazy make-up and Chuck Taylor sneakers. The people behind the show answered a few questions by email.
Tell me about the people who’re working on this project.
- Toi Whakaari graduate Frances Moore founded UnstuckOpera and directs this show. She’s a classically trained soprano, a Lexus Song Quest finalists and a Fulbright Scholar. She’s also very fond of gin and has a completely non-ironic love of Taylor Swift.
- Composer Alex Taylor is an Arts Foundation New Generation Artist and a winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award, New Zealand’s most prestigious composition prize. His works have performed in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, America and Europe, and by groups such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He also sings the role of Sorceress in the show in a mean falsetto and looks great in a red corset.
- Soprano Amy Jansen sings the role of Dido. She’s from Queenstown via Christchurch and has a Masters of Music from Auckland University. Amy has been a jazz singer and a band manager and finds running the kingdom of Carthage a breeze by comparison.
- Rhys Hingston sings Aeneas and Second Witch. By night, he performs with various opera companies, endeavours, and a cappella chamber choirs; by day, he moonlights for an innovative local ticketing company. And fights crime.
- Tamsyn Matchett sings the role of Belinda and First Witch. She has degrees in classical voice, runs her own opera company, DJs and directs opera too. Frances makes sure she never walks down stairs in front of Tamsyn.
- Barbara Paterson sings Second Woman and Third Witch but plays backup to no one. This New Yorker has performed at the Lincoln Centre and the Kennedy Centre and has performed in the USA, France and New Zealand. She’s a terrific mum to her wee boy Isaac, too.
How did this project come about?
Dido and Aeneas: Recomposed began as the final project for Frances Moore’s Master of Theatre Arts degree at Toi Whakaari and Victoria University. It premiered in a sold-out season at Te Uru Gallery in Auckland’s Titirangi and sold out again in a second run at the Basement Theatre in 2016. NZ Herald reviewer William Dart called it an “extraordinary musical and theatrical adventure.”
Why this opera?
This opera is about the deliciousness of falling in love, the devastation of losing love, and the beautiful intimacy found in strong female friendships. It also examines the question of fate, and how much agency we have. Themes you find in any pop song or work of great literature. It’s relevant, powerful, stuff.
Sometimes opera, as a form, comes with its own set of pre-conceived ideas – that it’s about big voices, grand spaces and fancy costumes. We wanted to disrupt this sense of scale, and celebrate the intimate, visceral power of the human voice by getting up close and personal with our audiences. In this promenade performance, the singers are often singing right next to audience members as we all move through different spaces. This intimacy and vulnerability creates something pretty moving and powerful.”
This is an everyday kind of story; girl meets boy, they fall in love, he bails on her because the gods tell him to and she throws herself on a burning pyre and dies. We’ve all been there. So this show is for everyone and anyone.
If you’ve never seen opera before, this is the perfect playful introduction. It’s cheap, it’s an hour long, it’s all in English and in promenade, so we’ll take you over every inch of BATS Theatre. There is some seriously good singing and the score samples Stravinsky and Beyonce as well as Henry Purcell and our own Alex Taylor.
If you’re already an opera fan, come and see a completely different take on a classic text.
What do you hope the audience is thinking after the show?
“Bloody hell! No one should do that with a feather boa!” We also hope they’re thinking, “Can’t wait to see what this company does next”.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Love’s a bitch… Book your tickets at bats.co.nz