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Bemidji State University vocal students, from left, Amanda Boring, Luke Barnard and Amber Joel rehearse a scene from the opera “Dido and Aeneas,” which opens today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Stage in Bangsberg Hall. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BSU students to perform opera ‘Dido and Aeneas’

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BEMIDJI — Sometimes, love does not conquer all.

 

 Today and Saturday, Bemidji audiences will hear two young singers from Bemidji State University attest to that as they give their own voice to the tragic heroine Dido in Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas.”

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 When new BSU music department faculty member Professor Corey Renbarger held auditions for his first production at the school, he was so taken by the two young women he decided to give each the opportunity to perform the role on different nights. Renbarger found Lauren Skarloken’s rendition of Dido’s lament “stunning” and Amanda Boring’s interpretation as “very emotional.”

 

 “They have worked so well together and have breathed incredible life into the production,” Renbarger said. “I could not be happier with my choice of them for this show.”

 

 “Dido and Aeneas” is considered the oldest opera known to exist, having been first produced by English composer Purcell in 1688 and considered to be at the forefront of later opera ventures. Purcell’s work was the genesis of operatic theater for many of his musical and dramatic devices now standard for opera today.

 

 First produced when Purcell was 28, “Dido and Aeneas” has remained in the repertoire of major opera houses worldwide. It is the story of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, who falls in and out of love easily, and her suitor, the heroic Trojan prince Aeneas, which will be sung by first-year voice student Luke Bernard.

 

 As is the way of ancient civilization’s lore, the gods, fates, evil doers or spirits play havoc with the lives of Dido and Aeneas, just for the fun of it.

 

 And in this hour long production, the young lovers fall prey to it all. Tonight, Mark Christensen sings a sorcerer angry at the happiness of the queen and her prince. “Christensen, with his rare bass, brings a maniacal tone to his portrayal of the sorcerer, while (on Saturday) Anna DeJong’s androgynous characterization is slick and slimy,” Renbarger said. They both bring a different “life” to the undead witches: Callie Dunbar, Margaret Ragan and Sarah Haines, who are called upon to ruin the lives of Dido and Aeneas for pure spite.

 

 Into the mix goes the pleasant friend of Dido, Belinda, as portrayed by Amber Joel; a townsperson, Emily Cooper; a spirit of the god Mercury played by Jess Jacobson; and Steven Mayer is a sailor for, after all, the opera is set in Carthage, a Phoenician sea faring city state in North Africa. The action, fast paced and sung in English, relies on the dramatic ability of the performers, Renbarger said.

 

 “Coupled with the rich, yet simple orchestration, vocalists are charged with the difficult task of truly acting with their voices and are given the freedom to explore the human condition through the pure beauty of emotional exposition,” he said. “We chose this show to feature the development and mature approach to drama that our excellent students here at BSU are exploring through their studies.”

 

 Renbarger has chosen the Bemidji Chamber Choir as the chorus, “voyeurs who comment and react to the events that play out in front of them.”

 

 The Bemidji Chamber Orchestra — Melanie Hanson and Andrew Green on violin, Patrick Reilly on cello, Andrew Heriot on viola and Alison Laughlin on the harpsichord — will accompany the production.

If You Go

What: Bemidji State Inversity Opera Theater presents "Dido and Aenas" by Henry Purcell

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday

Where: Main stage of Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Complex, 14th Street and Birchmont Drive N

Tickets: $10 adullts, $5 students and free for BSU and NTC students with valid ID

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