Music students from the University of Northampton will tell the tale of Henry Purcell’s heart-breaking love story, Dido and Aeneas, when they perform their first ever opera at the Royal Theatre in Northampton next month.
Under the tutelage of senior lecturer Jasmine Shadrack, as choir master and musical director, the students have been working hard to create a poignant rendition of what should have been a love story between Dido, Queen of Carthage and her warrior love, Aeneas, Prince of Troy, but becomes tainted with witchcraft and betrayal.
Stacey Pierre and Andres Stoddard are playing the lead characters of Dido and Aeneas and will be joined on stage by a full choir and band, made up of students mainly on the Popular Music courses, but also from other programmes within the Faculty of Art, Science and Technology. The costumes were even designed and made by Izabela Mundzik, a recent fashion graduate.
As this is the first opera performance the students have worked on, they have had to have additional training in operatic singing.
Stacey said: “I have really enjoyed the whole process. It been quite intense with regard to rehearsals and content, but I can really see how much our hard work is paying off. I was lucky enough to have had basic classical training prior to this, but it;s been great to have a professionally trained singer assist us in some of our sessions, which has been extremely helpful and has made me feel a lot more confident in myself.
“I’m looking forward being in the venue, hearing the acoustics and experiencing what it’s like to perform in a real theatre. I think this will be the perfect way to end a fantastic experience at university.
Andres said: “It’s been a great experience and I have found that I am learning different things every day. The choral pattern has been a bit difficult to learn, but on the whole it’s been good to step out of my comfort zone. I am looking forward to performing my solo part especially in a prestigious theatre setting.”
Nicole Obi, who plays the evil Sorceress, said: “It’s definitely been a challenge learning a new style of singing, but it’s been fun as we get to work together at the rehearsals and getting to grips with new things make it more exciting. I’m excited to perform and I can’t wait to really channel my character on the stage at the Royal.”
Kimberley Aldridge, who is part of the Chorus, commented: “It’s been fun putting together an operatic performance as this is something that we wouldn’t have the opportunity normally do. It’s has been out of everyone’s comfort zones, but when we are all together, learning our parts, it feels like we have become a lot stronger. I’m really looking forward to showing what we can do.”
Senior lecturer, Jasmine Shadrack said: “I knew this was going to be a big leap from our previous choir performances, but it’s not until you get into the minutiae of the opera itself, do you fully realise its intricacies.
“Any conductor will tell you that recitative is difficult and my students have risen to the occasion. We are all very excited and really looking forward to performing, especially in such a beautiful theatre. My students have all given 100 per cent and I am extremely proud of every single one of them.”
The performance of Dido and Aeneas will take place on Saturday 10 June at 7:30pm at the Royal Theatre in Northampton. Tickets can be booked via the Royal and Derngate website and are £15.50 each.