The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School
VCASS Studio Theatre
By Rebecca Martin.
Staging Dido and Aeneas as a collaboration between the music and dance departments of the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School was always going to be a challenge. Put together a group of singers, classical musicians, classically trained dancers, a small performance space and an almost non-existent production budget and you could well have a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Melbourne Ballet Company’s resident choreographer, Simon Hoy was given the task of bringing the opera to life, so the production was destined to be a success.
Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was created specifically as an opera for students, yet there is nothing student-like about the score. With the musicians in one corner at the front of the stage, the audience was able to witness the precision and ferocity of their playing up close. It was only their young faces which gave away their status as students and not as professionals.
Similarly, the chorus was of an incredibly high standard, and remained at the back of the stage like a back drop for the entire piece. At times it was easy to forget their physical presence, yet their voices were glorious and always impressive.
The focus of the performance was undoubtedly the dancers and both Dido (Amanda Mitrevski) and Belinda (Samantha Vottari) were stand outs in the respective lead roles. Both performed with maturity and technical strength and gave impassioned interpretations of the characters. Vottari in particular, was a shining light, with her poise, elegance and spot on centre of balance which at times made her appear ethereal as she seemed to hover in arabesque en pointe.
However, the corps de ballet of both the men and women reminded us that this was a production by students. The dancers were undoubtedly well rehearsed and given choreography that suited their bodies, but their line was at times lacking, as was the maturity seen by the lead dancers.
Simon Hoy embraced the baroque period opera with great aplomb and extraordinary vision. With only a smattering of props, he brought to life the tragic tale of love and loss. Hoy has an incredible ability to make each note of the music come to life, and with a score as layered as Purcell’s this made for compelling choreography that was lyrical, beautiful and replete with the depth necessary to convey the story of the opera.
All three shows were a sell out, which is wonderful for the students as it allows them to become accustomed to performing in front of large audiences, and it is even better for the dance community, because it gives us the opportunity to see local up and coming talent. It also means that the people of Melbourne are out and about and supporting the arts!