Royal opera, ballet unite for Baroque double bill

Wed Apr 1, 2009 8:00am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - At London's Covent Garden, members of the prestigious opera and ballet companies share the "royal" tag and a canteen, but usually little else.

Late on Tuesday they shared the main stage in their first major collaboration for around 20 years that celebrated two of Baroque's leading composers.

In two tales of star-crossed lovers, the companies performed "Dido and Aeneas" by Henry Purcell and "Acis and Galatea" by George Frideric Handel. This year marks the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth and the 250th anniversary of Handel's death.

The double bill was created by the Royal Ballet's resident choreographer Wayne McGregor, with the first work based on a version first performed at Milan's La Scala in 2006 and the second a new production.

In Dido and Aeneas, based on Virgil's "Aeneid," Dido, Queen of Carthage, falls in love with Trojan refugee Aeneas, but the relationship is doomed when Aeneas is forced to leave.

British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly plays Dido in her Royal Opera debut and, despite apologising to the audience in advance for any vocal problems caused by a recent throat infection, won over critics with her performance.

"Connolly is an inimitable Queen of Carthage, regal in tone and bearing," Barry Millington wrote in London's Evening Standard newspaper.

But Edward Seckerson of The Independent said the dance element in Dido was little more than "a kind of grouting between scenes" and was "at best incidental, at worst superfluous."   Continued...