Last night I went to see an opera double bill of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas and Handel's Acis and Galatea in productions by the Royal Ballet's resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor. I was probably the only ballet fan in the audience that hadn't gone for the dancing as the great love of my life is baroque opera and although neither of these works are strictly speaking operas, both are fabulous examples of English baroque singing. Both works contain a lot of orchestral music that is made for dancing, the second work more than the first, and in Acis & Galatea, McGregor has created a ballet that runs in tandem with the singers so that we have two sets of performers for every character.
Dido and Aeneas was very gloomy in concept featuring the minimalist sets so beloved by the Royal Opera that I'm starting to tire of, but of course it's not a happy story with the machinations of evil winning the day. Unfortunately wonderful Sarah Connelly who was singing Dido was suffering a throat infection and wasn't on her best form and I wasn't won over at all by the singer portraying Aeneas.
Acis and Galatea was far better to look at with the exception of the costumes that made the singers look like a bunch of Balkan peasants. The designer actually achieved what I consider the impossible by making the ravishingly beautiful Danielle De Niese look dowdy in ugly costumes and an absolutely vile blonde wig. Her Acis was singularly unattractive in costuming too and I didn't care much for his singing as his voice didn't seem to suit Handel. After Acis's death De Niese is given a heavenly Acis as a replacement and I expect she found this new lover in the shape of the Royal Ballet's Edward Watson a big improvement. They dance an ecstatic pas de deux together to end off the evening.
The dancers were all excellent with Lauren Cuthbertson as the dancing Galatea and Eric Underwood as a sympathetic bad guy taking the lions share of the action; nice to see Steven McRae back on stage again too. I thought McGregor coped well with baroque rhythms and that his choreography was both witty and poignant as the plot progressed.
The Royal Opera audiences are notorious for not being shy at showing their displeasure but Mr McGregor's debut was greeted with applause and a couple of cheers with not a boo to be heard. Too frequently R.O. productions are utterly hideous but last night wasn't in that category. Opera intendents could do worse than offer him more employment in that vein in the future.
Because of the nature of these two works they are being reviewed by both opera and dance critics and I'll post them as they appear.
The Evening Standard' Dance Critic
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/theatre/s ... d=23669828
The Evening Standard's Opera Critic
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/theatre/s ... ockStart=0
By the way I absolutely agree with this critic's praise of Paul Agnew as Damon - a gorgeous, gorgeous voice that had me regretting that the role of Damon is such a small one.