Dido & Aeneas: State Opera Of South Australia Welcomes A New Age

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Bethany Hill Bethany Hill

The State Opera and the Elder Conservatorium of Music join forces this October on a post-apocalyptic re-imagining of Purcell’s Trojan epic, 'Dido & Aeneas'.


We speak to the starring soprano, Bethany Hill, about the production, which is an adaptation of an independent version that she helped produce back in 2016.

We did an interview two years ago about this production of 'Dido & Aeneas', and at that time you were performing in it with Ensemble Galante and applying for funding, which was a big risk, but that risk has paid off hasn’t it because now you are performing the lead role with the State Opera?
I know, it’s pretty exciting actually. It was a little plan that we had many years ago and it was kind of a dream and so it is a bit surreal to be doing it on a much larger scale.

Regarding the larger scale, the last production was only an hour and this one is 90 minutes, but there must be a whole raft of changes because of the bigger budget. What sort of changes can audiences expect?
They can expect a larger chorus this time, because we are performing with the Elder Conservatorium Chorus. So last time we had eight people, this time we have probably about twenty. So it’s going to create a completely different sound this time. On the music side of things, we also have Elder Conservatorium Orchestra playing, so they’re going to be on modern instruments. We won’t have the period sound of Ensemble Galante but we will have the modern sound which is much bigger. My understanding is that the [post-apocalyptic] concept is along the same lines as last time but it’s just being elaborated upon now; and part of that is to do with the fact that [Director] Nick [Cannon] has a budget to play with now. There’s a designer, Ailsa Patterson, from State Theatre. I’ve seen some pictures and it looks amazing.

In the two years that have passed since you last performed the role, you’ve had the opportunity to perform interstate but also to be an Emerging Artist with State Opera. How have you changed as a performer in that time?
What’s happened since I last did it is that I’ve been invited to perform for the Patch Theatre, which was a really big learning curve for me because it was theatre-based and the singing, [although] it didn’t come second, wasn’t as important to me as the theatricality and the physical theatre of it. Doing a show like that I think really opened me up as a performer, so I feel a lot more versatile now. I can bring a lot more movement, a lot more characterisation that I think I didn’t have before. Having a couple of years with a role that you love, and with 'Dido' I absolutely adore the role, so to have the opportunity to do it again, you suddenly find different things to do with it. You find different things in the music, you find different things in the interpretation and my voice has changed, so there are different ways to sing it now, so it’s really exciting.

'Dido & Aeneas' runs on 2, 4 and 7 October at Plant 4 in Bowden.

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