A danced opera. This adaptation of the critically acclaimed and provocative dance production by Mark Morris takes a fresh and controversial approach to the baroque operatic masterwork written in 1689 by Henry Purcell. Dido... more », the noble Queen of Carthage, has fallen in love with the Trojan Prince Aeneas. While the court celebrates the imminent union of the two monarchs, the evil sorceress with her coven of witches plots their downfall. Romance leads to heartbreak and tragedy. Dido and Aeneas stars Mark Morris himself in the dual roles of Dido and the sorceress, and the supporting roles are performed by the incomparable Mark Morris Dance Group. Tafelmusik, the award-winning Toronto-based baroque orchestra, provides accompaniment to a superb cast of vocal soloists, including the great American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane as the singing counterpart to Mark Morris. 56 minutes.« less
"Mark Morris commits "double travesty" in this dance set to Purcell's seventeenth century opera--he plays both Dido, the noble queen of Carthage smitten by the visiting hero Aeneas, and the bawdy sorceress determined to undermine their liaison. The gender-bending and double-mindedness of Morris's interpretation of an opera originally performed at a girl's school is fascinating and highlights the opera's ambivalence about love and the possibility of finding happiness in this world. Pathos and humor get equal play. And Morris daringly switches roles without reliance on gimmicks such as masks or costume changes. His personality changes (for the sorceress is certainly the unfulfilled shadow side of Queen Dido) are signaled only by gesture and expression. It should be noted that Morris is not the only dancer performing more than one role. All the dancers wear the same gender-neutral black tunics as Morris, even as they play the queen's attendants in one scene and witches or sailors in others. The effect is to force us to focus on what is universal--love and the tragedy of loss.Having seen DIDO AND AENEAS performed live, I can say that Barbara Willis Sweete has created a film masterpiece. She rightly places the attention on the dancers, though she effectively integrates the singers into the visual landscape. Ensemble numbers are creatively and intelligently photographed. The viewer is never cheated out of any significant dance phrase or gesture. For my money, this is the best dance-to-film adaptation I have seen to date.The DVD includes an on-screen biography of Purcell (but should have included ones for Morris and Sweete as well). There are easy-to-read English subtitles to the sung English text. This is nice to have, though I would rather this were a feature I could turn off or on as I saw fit.Overall, an exciting and beautifully done film. It's one dance lovers will want to watch over and over."
Baroque purists beware
Barry D. Steben | Singapore | 06/02/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Reading the other reviews on this page convinced me to buy this DVD, and reading them again makes me think I have to give it at least one more viewing. But I have already tried two or three times to watch it, attempting to be as open-minded as possible about the dancing, and I couldn't get more than half way through. If you are a lover of modern dance, you may like Mark Morris and his group, but as a lover of baroque music and opera, I found the dancing totally out of harmony with the "soft" and "gentle" spirit of this beautiful music (to quote from the famous death song with which the opera concludes, "With drooping wings ye Cupids come"). To me the dancing seemed gross, lacking in gracefulness and subtlety, and often too reminiscent of the movements of callisthenics. Mark Morris, the choreographer, epitomizes these qualities that I found grating, and his large and masculine appearance and movements on stage were the very antithesis of everything I associate with Purcell's music and Baroque. I found his attempt to play two diametrically opposed roles - both female - without any change of costume totally confusing. The dancing only managed to continually draw my attention away from the beautiful music, making it impossible to really enjoy it. Finally it occurred to me, why not turn the TV off and just listen to the music? At first this was an infinite improvement, as the music is very well performed, and I realized that it is is sometimes best not to have any visual distractions if one wants to really concentrate on listening to music. But I soon found that the loud clumping sounds of the bare feet jumping around on the stage were still spoiling the music. I needed a recording of this opera to help prepare for a performance of the final two numbers by our opera company (Singapore Lyric Opera), but it was clear this DVD was not going to help. In desperation, I went to a local classical music store and asked for the best CD of Dido and Aeneus. I was introduced to the classic 1961 performance by Janet Baker and the English Chamber Orchestra, recently reissued in 24-bit sound in Decca's "Legendary Performances" series. This is the version of Dido and Aeneus to own! Aside from being an unforgettable performance, the booklet includes the full libretto and an introduction in English, French and German. I hope, however, that someone issues a performance of this opera AS AN OPERA on DVD sometime soon."
"Thy hand, Belinda"
P. Kendell | 05/27/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mark Morris plays the part of Dido in his choreography of Henry Purcell's famous opera. The set is stark and atmospheric with only a low balustrade in the background and a bench mid-stage. The dancers are barefoot, and male and female are costumed identically in long black dresses except Aeneas who is bare-chested. The director provides ocasional shots of the singers to keep the viewer aware that the voices don't just come out nothing. The orchestra is not shown. The musical performance is not the best I've heard, but it's more than adequate. Despite a comment below, I saw nothing offensive or unsuitable for kids.This is the first Mark Morris dance I've watched, and I'm not sure what to think about it. It's modern dance that owes little to classical dance or ballet. I'm also not sure I care for the tran-sexual role that Morris plays, but I enjoyed the movement that is absent from the usual operatic performance. I hope Morris trys the same sort of thing with other operas and that more of his work becomes available on DVD.The DVD is barebones with only the chapter selection menu and a very short print biography of Purcell. I wish to compliment the producers of this disc for providing English subtitles which makes up for the lack of other features. I hope that subtitles in the original language will become standard on opera DVDs."
Stunningly beautiful !
Trent Caldwell | 05/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this video recording on A&E "Breakfast with the Arts" program and rushed to the local video store, only to find out the video was NOT available anywhere. I was the more pleased to find out it is now available on DVD. (Why no VHS release though?). The concept of a "danced" opera is initially surprising, but after only a few minutes it is obvious it is a PERFECT match. Purcell's classic has inpired Mark Morris and his dance group to create a visual tour de force which brings to mind designs on ancient Greek vases or sculptures. I am NOT a ballet fan at all, but this combination of baroque and the classical is visually stunning, and the choreography is very "clean," very focused on accompanying and srtengthening the music and the opera's narrative. Although musically it is also a very competent performance, it is the interplay of music, lyrics, and dance that produces an unforgettable performance. Very highly recommended even for those who are not particularly fond of ballet (or even opera) - a perfect point of departure."
Grace and Passion
P. Kendell | Wokingham, England | 04/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Henry Purcell's music lends itself well to modern styles of interpretation. Perhaps that's down to its forthright nature. Purcell could write a melody to break your heart, but he never succumbed to mere prettiness. There are taut sinews not far beneath the surface of everything he wrote.Mark Morris' choreography and his personal approach to movement recognise the angularity of Purcell's compositional style and make the most of it. You won't find much prettiness here - or even elegance - but you will find grace and passion.The performace is superbly filmed, maintaining a fine balance between close-ups of the principals one one hand and showing the overall shape of the dance on the other. I personally found the occasional inclusion of the singers in-shot to be intrusive, but I appreciate that other reviewers have liked this.Technically the DVD is OK. There are a few speckles near the end, but the colour and clarity are both good. A gripe, though - the picture is 1.88:1 letterboxed, not anamorphic, so there is a vertical resolution of less than 300 lines, which is worse than TV in the 1960s! There is no region coding, which is handy. The subtitles are on by default - irritating! - but can be switched off.The sound is uncompressed PCM stereo of good quality. It's not afraid to present the sound of the dancers' feet on the stage so you could never listen to the soundtrack by itself."