BIPOC and Women-Led Wilmington Concert Opera Announces their First Completely Virtual Opera ‘Dido and Aeneas’

By Chris Ruel

Wilmington Concert Opera will stream the company’s first complete virtual opera, Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas,” on April 11 at 2:00 P.M. EDT, on Wilmington Concert Opera’s YouTube channel and includes a live chat with the cast.

Based on an episode within Virgil’s epic poem, “The Aeneid” is Purcell’s sole opera and a central work of the Baroque canon regarded as one of the greatest examples of musical tragedy as it marries the drama of French tragédie en musique with the melodic inventiveness of Italian opera seria.

The libretto relates the story of the Trojan Prince Aeneas, who, after being shipwrecked on his way to Italy, is entertained by Dido, the Queen of Carthage, in her palace. All good things end when witches plot Dido’s destruction. The Sorceress whips up a storm, and upon its breaking, a Spirit portraying Mercury instructs Aeneas to continue his journey to Italy. At first, Aeneas declares ‘Jove’s commands shall be obeyed,’ and prepares to leave, but abandons his plan and wishes to remain with Dido. When Dido refuses his stay, he sails off, leaving her behind to die. Dido’s exit aria, “When I am laid in the earth,” is the most famous of the opera’s pieces.

The opera, sung in English with supertitles, is family friendly and will appeal to classical music lovers, opera buffs, and the opera curious.

The principals leading the ensemble cast are soprano Kirsten C. Kunkle (Dido); baritone Nicholas Provenzale* (Aeneas); soprano Marisa Robinson (Belinda); soprano Anita Lyons (Sorceress); Matthew Hearn* (Spirit); and Russel Gartner* (Sailor). (* denotes Wilmington Concert Opera debut.) Instead of a chorus, the ensemble cast uses a quartet and features each quartet member in a comprimario role.

For the safety of the artists, the opera will be pre-recorded by individual singers and pianist and then combined into one fully synced video production. Wilmington Concert Opera’s production of “Dido and Aeneas” is sponsored in part by the Delaware CARES Act.

Kirsten C. Kunkle and Marisa Robinson founded Wilmington Concert Opera in 2016 to provide high-quality concert performances of operas in their original languages to the Wilmington, Delaware community while creating performance opportunities for emerging and established opera singers in the greater Wilmington area.