CHRISTIE William 8662 Oscar Ortega


William Christie presents Dido and Aeneas, this year's opening event

January 2 2023

William Christie, Blanca Li and the artists of Les Arts Florissants are starting rehearsals today for this new production of Purcell's opera. Discover it at the Teatros del Canal in Madrid, starting January 17!

"If there is an emblematic work by Purcell, it is Dido and Aeneas. This "mini-opera", which we don't know if it is actually finished, is certainly the best-known work in his entire repertoire - the proof is that for years it has been performed in theaters all over the world. I don't know of any other music that, in such a short time, manages to create such a dramatic and extraordinarily lively atmosphere. The ending, in particular, is one of the most famous Baroque arias; but above all, it is universal.

On a purely personal level, it is a work that has been with me for 60 years or more. I encountered it very early in my career: in the United States, and more specifically in New York, near where I grew up, it was not uncommon to see it in performance or in concert. Later on, I was led to conduct her on many occasions. You can't get rid of a work like Dido and Aeneas. Like the Goldberg Variations for a harpsichordist, or Beethoven's sonatas for a pianist, it is a masterpiece that needs to be loved and that lends itself throughout a career to being replayed, rethought, re-digested.

Musically speaking, have things evolved? Of course. The cultural world has changed enormously. In the past, one could find great productions of Dido with a full choir and orchestra; today, this is rather rare. But this does not prevent this work from showing its strength, quite the contrary. For many years now, I have turned to versions that could be called reduced, but which are not at all poor. The genius carried by the singers, notably for the roles of Dido, Belinda and the great witch, remains extraordinarily theatrical and dramatic, placed in a more intimate setting.

It is a habit for me to work with many different artists, often completely unknown. Every two years, I meet young singers at the beginning of their careers, so that they can be part of our productions and tours for long periods of time: they are the laureates of the Jardin des Voix, the academy that I created with my ensemble Les Arts Florissants. These new voices, as it were, cohabit with those I have known for a long time. In this new production, for example, we have Kathryn Lindsey, a wonderful artist with whom I worked in Salzburg, who will sing the role of Dido, alternating with two young singers from the Jardin des Voix, Helen Charleston and Lea Desandre, alongside Renato Dolcini, also a former laureate of my academy, who will play not only the role of Aeneas, but also that of the Great Witch.

Bringing these two roles together is an original choice. What could be further apart in appearance than a devoted lover and an evil being? However, one is perhaps the alter-ego of the other: the witch, by preventing Aeneas from staying by Dido's side, pushes him to realize his destiny, namely to found Rome. Both have in a way a common function, dramatically speaking, since they come to thwart Dido's desire. Is there any historical precedent for having the same person sing both roles? Nothing is less certain; but from a dramaturgical point of view, this at first sight provocative proposal is quite relevant, and even very interesting.

As for the chorus and the small orchestra, they will also bring together faithful members of Les Arts Florissants, with whom I am linked by years of friendship - but above all, by a common aesthetic and way of looking at musical interpretation.

Each time I revisit this opera, I expect the director to have a vision, a new visual and dramatic conception. Whether it's Pierre Barrat nearly 40 years ago, Deborah Warner or now Blanca Li, I always seek the assurance that the love, excitement and respect for this work will be shared between us.

It's not the first time I've worked with a choreographer: it's something I love. But to do it with someone of Blanca Li's stature, I look forward to it. Because baroque music is not only about hearing, it is also particularly visual and dramatic and can provide an opportunity for a wonderful collaboration between all the arts. I am curious to see how Blanca will furnish this opera; but above all, by the dramaturgical work and the emotional intensity that will result, I am convinced that this new production will be a great event."

William Christie

> Learn more