A switch to the UK is already proving a good move for New Zealand-born soprano Claire Filer who sings the role of Dido in Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas for West Sussex Opera.
“They advertised on a website that I use,” Claire explains. “I just moved to London a month ago from New Zealand, having been living in America for a few years. I went down and auditioned for them.
“I loved the fact that it was Dido & Aeneas that they were doing. It’s an opera that I have done before and that I particularly love. The music is just beautiful and I love the inherent sadness in the character of Dido. I really enjoy living through that character and bringing her to life. I played her a few years ago in Boston where I was studying.”
A tragic love story, described in Virgil’s Aeneid, the tale picks up after the fall of Troy. The soldier Aeneas is shipwrecked on the shores of Carthage, ruled by Queen Dido. They fall deeply in love, but the gods call Aeneas away to fulfil his destiny and found Rome, leaving Dido heartbroken and alone. In her despair, she commits suicide.
“She is a woman who is very in control of her life, and I think it is difficult for her when she develops these feelings for Aeneas and to find her emotions taking over and her losing that control. Despite the fact that those feelings might be reciprocated, it is written in Aeneas’ fate that he has to leave and so it is doomed from the start.”
For WSO, the opera follows on from their successful productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia (May) and Hansel & Gretel (December). For this latest production, they will be under the baton of tenor Jon Grave and director Louella Foyle.
The company was formed by artistic director and tenor Jon Grave. Through his work lecturing at the University of Chichester and Prebendal School, the company has formed strong educational ties, providing opportunities for local talented musicians to perform in the chorus and alongside the professional orchestra.
Principal guest conductor is Rachel Grave is also a cellist and film composer. She has conducted the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Her award-winning work has lead to her music being heard in cinemas all over the world.
Dido & Aeneas will be performed from 7.30-9.15pm on Friday, March 16 in the Assembly Rooms, North Street, Chichester and on Saturday, March 17 at West Wittering Memorial Hall. Tickets on 01243 544 382 and in person from Chichester and Midhurst Tourist Information Centres.