12 Apr 2013

St Mary’s Calne Chamber Choir and Opera Group soloists joined forces with St Margaret’s Preparatory School’s Chamber Choir for a performance of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas on Saturday 23rd February.

The professional semi-staged performance with a specialist string quartet and lute accompaniment was conducted by the dynamic young conductor, Christian Curnyn, one of the UK’s leading conductors specialising in the Baroque and Classical repertoire, whose professional calendar is full of international engagements.

He said: ‘Dido and Aeneas is often called a ‘miniature opera’ because it runs for under an hour. However, there is nothing miniature in this towering masterpiece, one of the most beautiful things ever written and one of my top five favourite operas. It’s the opera I have conducted the most, in concerts and in stagings ranging from period style performances in Tokyo to a multi media interpretation for Katie Mitchell at ENO, and I have discovered something new at every single performance. It’s wonderful to be here at St Mary Calne to conduct this opera for Mrs Bethan Dudley Fryar, who sang the title role in Handel’s Agrippina in my very first professional opera.’

The pupils were also joined by the world-renowned Contralto, Hilary Summers.  She said: ‘Is Dido and Aeneas the perfect opera? Ravishing music, high drama, comedy and tragedy – all taking place in under an hour!  Personally, the role of the Sorceress has always been my delight; although Dido gets the fabulous aria, the Sorceress can horse around being unspeakably evil and horrid!  It has been great fun working with the cast on this project, as they have embraced my ebullience and I thank them for keeping their giggles to a minimum and their energy to a maximum!’

Mrs Bethan Dudley Fryar, Director of Vocal Studies at St Mary’s Calne and formerly part of the Welsh National Opera, organised the event for the two schools and commented, ‘the collaboration with high calibre professional musicians was a tantalizing challenge, and it was an utter joy to perform the iconic opera with Period Instruments and create the Baroque era with such delicacy and style.’