Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dido and Petunia Dursley

Monday night we saw another of the Festwochen performances. This was one of the most popular from 2006 and was having an encore performance both here and in England. It was Henry Purcell's renaissance opera, Dido and Aeneas, with a new foreword performed by Fiona Shaw.
She came out wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans, with a corsetted bodice tied on, and a bustle, which just looked like a fanny pack without a skirt over it. She recited lines from Ovid's story of Echo and Narcissus, then a section of TS Eliot's "The Wasteland," and finally a few lines of Yeats.Then we saw the opera, and I can see why this was a popular favorite in Vienna. It was both very formal/classical/historical and very hip/modern/spare, which is a combination the Viennese really groove on (they will often stick a new glass and metal facade/elevator/awning onto an old, old building). It suits them.
This had unadorned banks of theater lights in the middle of a typical Baroque room, and the opera followed suit: leads wore period costumes, but the chorus wore street clothes. You can see a few of the photos here. They used period instruments, including the largest lute I'd ever seen. The villainess ate cotton candy, wore sunglasses, and smoked (ok, I've never seen any singer smoke before). Since this work was premiered by a girls' school, they used two dozen or so girls in school uniforms to do the dancing, augmented by three ripped guys who did Circque du Soleil kind of stuff while hanging from the ceiling.
Afterward, Rob asked why Fiona Shaw sounded so familiar, and after thinking about it, I realized that she was Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter series. Also in Persuasion and Three Men and a Little Lady, and several other movies you'll have seen.

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