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Opera to Present Baroque Masterpiece
March 19, 2004


(MACON)— Georgia opera-goers will have an opportunity to see a fully-staged production of a baroque masterpiece when Mercer University Opera presents Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell.
All three performances will be held at 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, March 25-27, in Fickling Hall of the McCorkle Music Building on the Mercer campus. Tickets are $5/$3 for students and can be purchased by calling Mercer's Department of Music at 478-301-2748.
According to Dr. Martha Malone, director of opera and voice at Mercer, concert versions of the piece have been performed in the area in recent years, but to her knowledge no operas from the baroque period have been staged locally in the past 14 years. She feels that the exquisite acoustics and intimate atmosphere of Fickling Recital Hall will provide a perfect setting for Purcell's one-hour opera in miniature.  
Written in 1689 for performance by the "young gentlewomen" of Josiah Priest's School for Young Ladies in Chelsea, England, the opera was the first major stage work by the 30-year-old composer and is justly celebrated for its brilliant music, fluid drama and emotional depth.
Dido and Aeneas is the tragic love story of the Trojan hero and the queen of Carthage. Adapted by librettist Natum Tate from one of his own plays, the story derives from the fourth book of the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid in which Aeneas, fleeing the destruction of Troy, is driven to Carthage by storms at sea, where he has a love affair with the widowed queen and founder of that city until the gods order him to resume his journey to Italy. 
Borrowing elements from English theatrical tradition, the librettist replaces the Greek gods with a sorceress and three witches as the chief mischief-makers. The score provides the chorus with the opportunity to become courtiers, witches, and sailors, and is full of high drama with touches of humor, lively dances and special effects, such as the famous "Echo Chorus." 
The Mercer production will be accompanied by strings and harpsichord, conducted by Dr. Stanley L. Roberts, director of choral studies at Mercer. The role of Dido will be sung by Monica Murphy, a senior Mercer student who was the 2002 winner of the Macon Symphony Concerto Competition.  Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Lanning of the Macon State College faculty will be a guest artist in the role of the Sorceress.  Dr. Malone will direct, and Dr. Carol Goff, assistant professor of music, is coach-accompanist. Costumes will be by Shelley Kuhen, with set design by Tony Pearson, lighting design by Rusty Banks and choreography by Terrell Abney.