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Publication Date : 15-05-2012
NUNi - that's short for "Never Underestimate New Ideas" - is teaming up with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in a new production of Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas".
"We worked with the BSO before but this is the first time we're truly co-producing a work with them," says NUNi's resident director Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon.
"BSO has a contract with Shalev Ad-el, the New York and Berlin based Israeli harpsichord soloist who specialises in baroque music. We're trying to make full use of local singing talents and so our choice is 'Dido and Aeneas'. Another reason is that its libretto is in English. In my experience, many Thai singers have trouble with German or Italian ones. Also, I staged this opera for a summer camp at Silpakorn University's College of Music three years ago and it went well."
As the company's name suggests and its past works guarantee, it's not going to be a typical opera production.
"Back then, it was truly an ensemble piece and each performed various roles. Also, it's a very physical opera production with light sets and props that were possible for campus tours. For this production at this venue, there are some cast changes and some performers are assigned specific roles, but it's still pretty much an ensemble piece and other concepts remain intact.
"I've also created the choreography for the singers by myself. I think it better serves the libretto than having a professional choreographer do this. Baroque music is generally quite light and many pieces in this opera really make you want to move. When I listened to them, I could see people moving on stage. It's already proved to me that these physical movements actually make them sing better as they engage their whole bodies for a more powerful performance, rather than just concentrate on their singing.
"My interpretation has also changed - maybe I get older. The previous production focused on Dido, while in this one, perhaps because I now understand Dido better, I have more questions about her sister Belinda, who actually sings more than Dido. And so I've interpreted Belinda's character as more rounded. As the one closest to Dido, she actually betrayed Dido. In the original story, it's the Sorcerer who brings about all the mayhem. This interpretation made our Israeli conductor's jaw drop, but he agreed that it made sense.
"The original Prologue is not complete so we have brought in some parts of music and libretto from another Purcell's opera 'King Arthur', which fit in very well."
Thailand's best baritone, Saran Suebsantiwongse, portrays Trojan hero Aeneas, while the role of Dido, Queen of Carthage, is filled by Japanese expat Ayano Schramm-Kimura, a multi-award winning opera singer. Swiss expat mezzo-soprano Liv Lange performs the Second Woman.
Pattarasuda adds, "The chorus, who handle most of the singing in this opera, comprises alumni and students of Mahidol and Silpakorn Universities majoring in classical singing."
BSO's 12-piece chamber orchestra adds live music accompaniment, and Ad-el conducts it from his harpsichord.
Another tale of romance, also with lots of music but a very different ending, is also on stage this weekend. Dreambox is restaging, with the original cast fully intact, Daraka Wongsiri's adaptation of popular Thai novel "Pritsana: The Musical", which premiered in March. I wrote in my review that despite its length, a quarter short of four hours, "It's delightful from start to finish," and stand by that statement.
"Dido and Aeneas" is at Thailand Cultural Centre's Small Hall from Friday to Sunday at 8pm. It's in English with English and Thai surtitles. For more details, check out NUNi's Facebook page.
"Pritsana: The Musical" is at M Theatre on New Phetchaburi Road between Thong Lor and Ekamai from Friday to Sunday and from May 25 to 27. It's in Thai with no English surtitles. Show times are at 7.30pm on Friday, 2 and 7.30 on Saturday 2 on Sunday. Tickets at www.BananaBooking.