April was a busy month for the UW Chamber Singers and Opera Workshop, featuring two separate productions of Henry Purcell’s 17th-century opera Dido and Aeneas. Faculty artist Stephen Stubbs led student singers and instrumentalists in a staged version in Meany Hall on April 13th, then brought in professional soloists and members of the Pacific MusicWorks period orchestra for concert performances in Benaroya Hall and Meany Hall on April 29th and 30th.
While Geoffrey Boers and Stephen Stubbs coached both subsets of Chamber Singers in Baroque performance practice for the Dido choruses, U.K. choreographer Anna Mansbridge put a modern spin on the staged version with a wide range of movement styles. Chorus members created human sculptures of trees, writhed like villainous witches, performed elegant country dances, and caroused like sailors, often bringing out the humor in an otherwise tragic tale. Four professional dancers provided another means of storytelling and artistry.
The other half of Chamber Singers sang the choruses in the April 29-30 concert performances with Laura Pudwell and Brendan Tuohy in the title roles. Instead of the Fairy Queen prologue that opened the staged production, they began with Purcell’s Welcome Song for the king. This collaboration between the UW Chamber Singers and Pacific MusicWorks was preceded by other rewarding early music projects, including Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and Handel’s Messiah in the 2016-2017 season.