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Dido and Aeneas - Interview with Helen Charlston 

March 16 2023

Winner of the 2021 edition of the Jardin des Voix, Helen Charlston shares the stage once again with Les Arts Florissants. The young British mezzo-soprano plays the role of Dido in Purcell's famous opera Dido and Aeneas, performed at the Opéra Royal de Versailles on March 17, 18 and 19. We met her a few days ago during the rehearsals...

One and a half year after your performance in Jardin des Voix, what does it mean to you to be back working with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, in this new production of Dido and Aeneas?

It is really exciting to be welcome back. It feels like home, returning to family – there are even two other members of my edition of Le Jardin de Voix in the production. It is a comfortable way of doing it when everyone is on your side. It’s fantastic.

You’ve already sung this opera but as a second role – the “first witch”. This time, you are embodying the titre-role of Dido: how do you feel about it?

This is my first proper Dido, which is exciting! Dido and Aeneas is one of the pieces that you literally absorb, as a singer, as it is so often performed – especially in the UK. This character is amazingly strong, with a real sense of moral duty and decision making. From the beginning we know that she will die: it is inevitable, but she falls in love with a man… there is a sense of reality in her.  

You already sang the aria “When I am laid” in a video inspired by the Coldplay music “The Scientist”. Why making this artistic choice?

This idea came from the artistic vision of the orchestra I was working with, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as part of a cycle in which they adapt pop culture video clips to classical music. It is meant as a real homage to Coldplay; but using it as an inspiration is also an amazing way to tell the story of Dido. In the video, we see the character die at the beginning and then everything is happening in reverse. The same way, Dido’s destiny is inevitable, it could not be otherwise. The video shows this idea, and by these means succeeds in bringing Dido’s story to life in a very short time.

If you just had to name one or two roles, what would be your dream role?

I have to say that Dido has been one of my dreams for a while – which is why it is so fantastic to be singing it now! But I also think of other Handel roles. For example, I would really like to explore Ariodante: a royal character spurred on by the need to make good decisions and I am very interested in that.

> Learn more about our new production of Dido and Aeneas