I would like to get all complaining out of the way quickly. There were no supertitles and the room was too dark to read the text to Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall this afternoon.
Don't get the wrong idea. I remember precisely every single word of this wonderful text. Who could resist...
"Oft she visits this lone mountain.
Oft she bathes her in this fountain."
"No repentance shall reclaim
The injured Dido's slighted flame;
For 'tis enough what e'er you now decree
That you had once the thought of leaving me."
"Harm's our delight and mischief all our skill."
And the music shapes these words in a way that approaches divine perfection
Stephanie Blythe was an amazing Dido: strong, thoughtful, emotional, sensitive. Perhaps, like Christa, she searches for the perfect performance. She was also a very nice sorceress.
Philip Cutlip's Aeneas was also excellent. His voice has a wonderful quality.
But this is Mark Morris's Dido. He would want nothing to distract us from watching the dancers. Morris also conducted. The Philharmonia Baroque, the chorus, and all the soloists were crowded into the small pit below the virtually empty stage.
The troop of dancers, male and female, all dress the same in unisex skirts or briefly in unisex shorts. They dance barefoot, and their feet slap against the smooth floor. The angularity of their movements suggests pre-classical Greece.
There are several numbers where no one sings, and I have always thought they needed dancing in these spots. I was right.
The great works of music can be created again and again, each time with the insight of the individual artists bringing us to see it anew. It helps to know every word, every note. You see and hear every gesture in stark relief. I wouldn't have imagined this dance, but it expanded my idea of the work. It was very beautiful.