“You want abstraction”

Henry Purcell’s opera Dido & Aeneas returns tonight at the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg.


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Henry Purcell’s opera Dido & Aeneas returns tonight at the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg.

From our correspondent Stéphane Gilbart

At the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Franck Chartier and his Peeping Tom ensemble offered us anything but abstraction in their approach to a Purcell Dido & Aeneas with an extended score, magnificently served by Emmanuelle Haïm and his Concert d’Astrée. An approach whose consistent radicalism convinced an enthusiastic audience.

The calendar will certainly not have caught the eye of the layperson this Saturday, but for CD and vinyl lovers, April 23rd is synonymous with Record Store Day. And this day feels like Christmas morning.

“Dido & Aeneas” is an opera by Henry Purcell from 1689. It tells us about the meeting of Aeneas fleeing the ruined Troy and Dido, Queen of Carthage, the love that imposes itself. But the gods and cunning witches urge Aeneas to continue his journey to fulfill his destiny. Dido dies in pain.

An immersion in concrete realities

A small work of barely an hour, so compelling in its brevity that forces it to immediately reach the essence of beings, so moving thanks to its heroine’s two arias, including the famous “When I am Laid in Earth” at the end. A human and musical highlight.

But Franck Chartier, typical of the spirit of his Peeping Tom collective (whose trilogy “Vader”, “Moeder” and “Kind” was discovered mainly in Luxembourg), decided to show the upheaval uncompromisingly, to show the beings who to enclose the beauty of opera and its sublime side in ethereal spheres. Hence the ironic exclamation of one of the characters: “You want abstraction”, actually: “You wanted, you would have wanted abstraction”. No, Franck Chartier plunges us into the very concrete, very tangible realities of such love situations, such dilemmas.

What moves us and moves us

So he imagined a wealthy elderly lady – a former Dido performer? – absolutely shaped by the character of the Queen of Carthage, who never stops living and relives her tragic story over and over again, but in dreams, nightmares, haunting images, rehashes. What appears, what is shown and seen and with what intensity is all that is hidden beneath our beautiful sublime feelings, what moves us and moves us deeply, and what emerges here in broad daylight.

Culture, rehearsal of the Orchester de la Place de l'Europe: Itw conductors and musicians.  Photo: Gerry Huberty/Luxemburger Wort

Before the first concert in June we attended a rehearsal of the new amateur ensemble.

As a result, absolutely unexpected, moving, sometimes funny, repetitive, metaphorical, grossly realistic or poetic stage designs are created for the viewer, played, danced. This culminates in a scenography also plagued by unexpected metamorphoses (hence those tons of sand that spill onto the stage, so in the end those panels that open to infernal apparitions). We have “full view”.

What is remarkable about this scenic reading is its coherence, the sovereign mastery of all means and effects, the individual and collective commitment of the actors of Exciting Tom, including the fascinating Eurudike De Beul. What mastery, what achievement in radicalism.

But all of this is in its own way in the service of Purcell’s work. And there we can only rejoice that it has been entrusted to Emmanuelle Haïm and her Concert d’Astrée, whose precision and way of emphasizing the works they tackle are well known.

The musician Samuel Reinard gives a voice to the steely past.

All this is also achieved thanks to the singing of Marie-Claude Chappuis-Didon, Emöke Baráth-Belinda, Jarrett Ott-Enée, Keri Fuge-la dame d’honneur, without forgetting the precise commentary-punctuation chorus. For her part, Emmanuelle Haïm has also completed the little opera, inserting contemporary notes composed by Atsushi Sakaï, one of the members of the ensemble, giving the work contemporary touches that prove the permanence of the opera influences.

From now on, for those who were there, the beautiful notes and melodies of Purcell will live inextricably with the images that come to mind of this production.

Last performance this Friday evening at 8 p.m. The information:


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