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UA Opera Theater opens season with hour-long ‘Dido and Aeneas’

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Lindsey Ray Johnson, El Inde Arizona
Nan Sun, center, plays Dido with Beth Jargstorf, left, as “Belinda.” UA Opera Theater is mounting the hourlong chamber opera this weekend.

The University of Arizona School of Music Opera Theater will perform the chamber opera “Dido and Aeneas” on Nov. 16-19 at Crowder Hall

The opera tells the tragic love story of Dido and Aeneas, plagued by a sorceress who doesn’t want their love to be. Written around 1683 by Henry Purcell and first performed in 1689, it was originally performed by a girls school in London, England

In her first year as a doctor of musical arts student, Beth Jargstorf  plays the role of Belinda, the sister of Dido. Jargstorf said that as they rehearse, she has seen recurring themes of empowerment in the story. 

“I really do love the way that we have been approaching this, that it has to do with these female relationships and Dido’s agency,” Jargstof said. “Even though she kills herself and dies of a broken heart when Aeneas leaves her, it’s taken on a very empowered perspective.”  

Stefan Vikingur plays the role of the sorceress and he left the role as female. 

“I chose to keep it more of a female-type deal but have a lower voice, so that adds to the aspect of empowerment,” Vikingur said. “It’s been really fun to play around with that and with my sister witches and kinda get to know the female aspects of a posse.” 

The students have been working on the opera since the beginning of the semester. Jargstorf said she has found relationships to be empowering and essential.

“Something we always talk about is who is the most important on the stage,” Jargstorf said. “It’s never you, It’s everyone around you. It’s important to remember your relationships to your colleagues on stage around you, and the relationship between the characters.” 

This opera is unique in that it is only an hour long; most operas tend to run at least two hours. The orchestra also is smaller.

“It’s unique, it’s different, it’s not like musical theater,” Vikingur said. “The sounds are different, the sets are different and it’s short and fun. It’s sad, but it’s fun.”

In his role as the sorceress, Vikingur gets to play the part of the villain, and he admits that he likes it. 

“It’s been really fun to let go and be evil for no reason,” Vikingur said. “You don’t have to be that mean, but I am so mean.

Elena Ortiz is part of the chorus and she said she has “loved every minute” of working on the opera. 

Ortiz says this show is made for anyone and everyone, regardless of if they are new to opera or a longtime fan.

“I think it’s really cool,” Ortiz said. “You get to see all these sets and all these different ways that people kinda interpret these things.”

“There’s no denying that opera is a dying art, but there are people that it’s their entire passion. That’s why we need to keep it alive,” Vikingur said. “It’s also a beautiful form of storytelling because we are using our own instruments that we were born with.” 

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 18, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, at Crowder Hall, 1017 N. Olive Road, in the UA School of Music. Tickets are $20, $10 for students. Find more information at the Arizona Arts website.


El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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