Dido (Katrina Westin) surrounded by the chorus. (Photo: Marie David)

Dido (Katrina Westin) surrounded by the chorus. (Photo: Marie David)

Pyjamas help modernize opera

Dalhousie vocal students perform a double bill opera for academic credit

The Dalhousie opera workshop is putting a modern twist on the 400-year-old opera Dido and Aeneas, setting the opera in a dormitory.

The workshop is performing the opera as part of a double bill, with each opera having two casts.

The whole opera takes place in a girls' dorm at night and everyone wears pyjamas. Dido is the popular girl and Aeneas, captain of the lacrosse team, breaks into the dorm with his teammates.

Megan Quick, who plays Dido, said the changes make the opera more relatable, instead of portraying royal families and ancient civilizations.

Cast for Feburary 3 and 5

Show times:7:30pm

Comedy on the Bridge
Josephine - Mary-Claire Sanderson
Brewer - Johnathon Kirby
Johnny - Josh Whelan
Eva - Megan Quick
Schoolmaster - Ryan Josey
Friendly Sentry - Isabel Lavender
Enemy Sentry - Matthew Beasant
Friendly Officer - Robert Summerby-Murray

Dido and Aeneas:
Dido - Katrina Westin
Aeneas - Owen McCausland
Belinda - Jillian Bonner
Sailor/Spirit - Jeremy Dutcher
First Witch - Stephanie Fillman
Second Witch/Attendant - Kat Smith

Cast for Feburary 4 and 6

Show times: Feb 4 - 7:30 pm Feb 6: 2:30 pm (matinee)

Comedy on the Bridge:
Josephine - Rita Wood
Brewer - Iain MacNeil
Johnny - Taylor Long
Eva -Katrina Westin
Schoolmaster - Jonathan MacArthur
Friendly Sentry - Isabel Lavender
Enemy Sentry - Matthew Beasant
Friendly Officer - Robert Summerby-Murray

Dido and Aeneas:
Dido - Megan Quick
Aeneas - Geordie Brown
Belinda - Lauren Estey
Sailor/Spirit - Jeremy Dutcher
First Witch - Alyssa McCarthy
Second Witch/Attendant - Meghan Thompson

Ticket prices: $17.50 regular admission $12.00 seniors/students



"You have the popular girls, then you have the jocks and the nerdy kids in the back," she said. "It's more accessible I think then to look on stage and see a queen and an invading king."

The opera was originally written for a girls' school to perform but was set in a castle. Brent Krysa, the director for the Dal performance, chose to set the opera in a dorm to both modernize it and bring the roots of the play back.

Modern research

Krysa gave the students some pop culture homework to prepare for the performance.

"Brent told us that for research we should watch Mean Girls, and the Harry Potter film where they all come and compete at the school," said Geordie Brown, who plays Aeneas.

The modern take allows for some new plots in the show.

"Usually in the opera the part of Belinda is Dido's best friend, but in this show she is kind of like the Regina George (from Mean Girls). She's secretly trying to steal that crown from her — she's behind it all," said Brown.

The staging of this tragic opera is simplistic but intricate. "The beds basically change the scenery of where we are, but there is a whole lot of interesting movement that goes on. At the end there's a huge pile — a mess somehow we manage to do it — and Dido dies on top of it," said Brown.

Double bill

Dido and Aeneas is the main opera in the double bill performance. The opening opera is Comedy on the Bridge, a short, light comedy about five people stuck on a bridge in a war-torn country that separates the warring groups. There is talk of jealousy, government espionage, love and a riddle, which will get them off the bridge.

The vocal class performs an opera annually for one of their two required voice credits.

The major project is usually a double bill, which pairs two contrasting pieces, in this case a comedy and a tragedy. The shows begin Thursday night and go to Sunday afternoon.


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