A night at the opera


Courtesy Photo

UNI Opera will perform “Dido and Aeneas” this Saturday and Sunday in the Great Hall in Gallagher Bluedorn.


UNI Opera to present “Dido and Aeneas” this weekend

Those looking for a respite from the frigid weather need look no further than UNI Opera’s upcoming performance of “Dido and Aeneas” this Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Gallagher Bluedorn’s Great Hall. 

Written by composer Henry Purcell around 1688 and performed in English, “Dido and Aeneas” is about one hour long and harkens back to ancient Greek myths and tragedies as it depicts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her misery when he abandons her. 

Aricson Knoblock plays the character Aeneas, and emphasizes the beginner friendly aspects of the opera.

“I definitely think if someone hasn’t seen an opera yet, it’s a good one to start with.”

Knoblock continued, “It’s much more accessible than other opera classics since most of those are in Italian,” Knoblock said. 

Grace Sullivan, who plays the character of the Spirit, reiterates the uniqueness of the production. “This production is extremely accessible as both a performer and audience member. We also have a wonderful live pit orchestra, which includes a theorbo. The theorbo is a beautiful instrument, and you don’t want to miss the chance to see or hear one in person.”

Along with the uniqueness of the music and story, the setting of the opera will be presented in modern times versus the traditional ancient Greece, allowing for a fresh take on the opera classic. Director of UNI Opera Richard Gammon said, “I’m always interested in exploring how to present narratives in the most honest and efficient way. That often leads me to reimagining the story in modern times. And this is exactly the case for this production.”

Students have been working diligently since the fall to put on the production, and are looking forward to finally performing this weekend.

Athena-Sadé Whiteside plays the character Dido, and has been preparing for the role extensively. “I prepared for this role by reading the full libretto and watching multiple productions of the opera. I also worked on embodying different types of physicality, such as anger and grief, without allowing tension to affect my singing.”

Knoblock prepared for his role by researching Greek tragedies and finding a way to portray his character. “Finding the princely confidence while still maintaining an air of maturity and self control that I think Aeneas needs was probably the most difficult thing. It’s like riding the line between arrogance and regular healthy confidence.”

Sullivan also notes the complexities of preparing for her role. “One of the challenging parts of preparing for this role was the discussion of physicality. The Spirit has two, debatably even three distinct physicalities, and one of these is her portrayal as a messenger of the gods when delivering Jove’s message to Aeneas, setting Dido’s destruction into motion.”

Students working on the opera are looking forward to their performances on both Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. 

Whiteside said, “In the upcoming performances I am looking forward to being in community with my many colleagues. I love hearing the chorus sing and listening to the orchestra play. The musicians at UNI are extremely skilled and talented and it is truly a blessing to hear their music so often.”

Sullivan is excited to introduce the audience to this extravagant story and bring the production to life. “The set and lighting design, costumes and staging bring lots of energy and engagement to this story,” She said.

Gammon also notes, “Opera is inherently a collaborative effort. The opportunity to join forces with students, staff, and fellow faculty from within the School of Music, as well as the Department of Theatre, the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center and guest artists and designers from across the country is an honor. This production of Dido and Aeneas exemplifies what the power of music and community can accomplish.”

To purchase tickets, call (319) 273-4TIX, or visit unitix.uni.edu. For more information on this, or other School of Music events, call (319) 273-2028 or visit music.uni.edu.