La Didone is produced by the New York artists collective - The Wooster Group. Under the direction of Elizabeth LeCompte, they have developed a reputation as pioneers of multimedia performance, and La Didone is nothing less than visually stunning. The set, similar to Star Trek space station, is astonishing. Three huge screens dominate the stage. Television monitors and computer technology saturate the senses.
The title is taken from an opera written in the 17th century by the Italians Busenello and Cavalli, based on episodes from Books 1, 2 and 4 of Virgil's Aeneid. LeCompte's first foray into working with classical signers, what she has done is to juxtapose this opera, whose theme is of love, death and redemption, with the plot in the l960's B cult movie ‘Planet of the Vampires.'
Explaining this bizarre twinning she says "what I am looking for is styles clashing up against each other." And "there are enough thematic similarities between the two - the male journey into the unknown, the Italian origins, the Baroque mood - to create fascinating juxtapositions."
As with much media reporting nowadays we are expected to use all our senses. Conflicting commentary is de rigeur. A news announcer reports on a story while simultaneously our eyes are drawn to the bottom of the screen where a conflicting story is told. This is the technique The Wooster Group deploys and because of that it is often difficult to follow particular themes. Do we concentrate on the English spoken story of the American characters taken from the 20th century movie, or do we attempt to immerse ourselves in the passionate dilemma of Dido's love for Aeneas - sung by the singers in Italian libretto?
The singing was of a high calibre. Dido was sung by Hai-Ting Chinn, whose slight figure belied her powerful voice. The live musicians playing a Baroque guitar, electric guitar, harpsichord and accordion, were very good. As was John Young, who sung the part of Aeneas.
La Didone is an extremely adventurous multimedia production. LeCompte's intention was to have "two styles [that] sit next to each other. Occasionally they [will] coincide and go off like bumper cars in different directions." A stimulating concept, but despite the stunning visuals, there were numerous occasions when it felt the production had descended into chaos.
Time: 8pm, Sunday 19, Tuesday 21 August, Wednesday 22nd