New York Opera Fest 2019 Preview: Death of Classical Brings ‘Dido & Aeneas’ To Life

By David Salazar
The New York Opera Fest 2019 kicked off on Monday, April 29 and for the next several weeks, New Yorkers will get ample opportunity to enjoy opera in a variety of unique ways. As has been OperaWire’s tradition over the years, we have reached out to a number of the companies participating in the festival and have asked them a series of questions that will allow our readers to get to know them a bit.
Death of Classical will present a unique presentation of “Dido & Aeneas” on June 4, 5, 7, 8 at the Green-Wood Catacombs. Daniela Mack is set to star in the title role with Alek Shrader directing the production.
Tell us why you’re excited to participate in this year’s New York Opera Festival.
The Fest presents an extraordinary cross-section of modern opera, and represents to me the future of the art form. It’s a beautiful, sprawling, diverse and exciting vision of all that opera can be, and the ways it can relate to modern culture and society.
What themes and/or issues are addressed in your production, and how are they relevant to your company and its mission?
I believe Purcell’s “Dido & Aeneas” is an opera about how we retain our dignity in the face of betrayal and loss, how we maintain a sense of agency when others seek to render us powerless, and how we hope to be remembered after we’re gone. Dido is often portrayed as someone who takes her own life because the man she loves leaves her, but with our production director Alek Shrader is aiming to restore her power and purpose by introducing additional characters and plot points from the Marlowe version of the story, where her suicide as both a larger societal statement as well as a political maneuver, rather than just a moment of weakness.
What is something special or unique about your production that NYC audiences can look forward to?
Well, for starters it’ll be set in a Catacomb in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery…plus we’ll feature a sunset whiskey tasting beforehand, and a moonlit walk back to the gates following the show. As with all of our productions, we seek to create a unique and integrated experience around each performance that both focuses and enhances the response to the music. In this case, hearing the great mezzo Daniela Mack sing the soul-shattering final aria “When I Am Laid In Earth” while in a tomb should make for a pretty memorable moment…
What role do you think “indie opera” plays in a city like NYC and for the future of the art form as a whole?
Smaller opera companies have the flexibility and freedom to follow their artistic vision, rather than cater to the commercial realities of larger organizations. That allows these smaller opera producers to push boundaries, create new and ever-more-relevant new works and productions, and offer an intimate, innovative experience to audiences that might never be interested in a ticket to the Met. From where I sit, the future looks bright!