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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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The production features political turmoil and heartbreak. The production features political turmoil and heartbreak.

Heartbreaking and Sublime Opera

SDSU Opera sets Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” in modern day Washington, D.C.
By Lizbeth Persons Price

"Dido & Aeneas" is composer Henry Purcell's magnificent achievement, and one of the monumental works of baroque opera. San Diego State University will present this landmark 1689 work, directed by Julie Maykowski.

The production will take place at 7:30 p.m on Friday, Nov. 13 and Saturday, Nov. 14, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15 in Smith Recital Hall. Tickets can be purchased online.

Based on Virgil's "Aeneid," the chamber opera, in present-day Washington, D.C., tells the turbulent love story of Dido and her beloved Aeneas as they deal with political turmoil and heartbreak.

Old and new

Maykowski — SDSU's new director of Opera — directs "Dido and Aeneas." As she revisited the score in preparation for the production, it struck her how the theme of antiquity, expressed in Baroque music, still has a very contemporary feeling and message.

“Throughout the history of opera, composers have frequently selected source materials from antiquity and attempted to breathe new life into them with their music,” she explained. “Why not set this ancient story, composed by a seventeenth century composer, in a contemporary setting? Why not the White House?”

In this production, "President Dido receives a visit from foreign diplomat, Aeneas, and they fall in love. The witches and the sorceress are international and national politicians plotting the end of President Dido, and therefore political intrigue ensues,” she continued.

There has been a great deal of recent debate about the relevance of opera, and its survival in the modern world. According to Maykowski, “there are certain operas that won’t work in a modern or even an updated setting but in general, the stories we tell through opera contain emotions, themes, and experiences that are very relevant to a modern audience. I believe there are some operas that require period settings and costumes but I also believe that we can think outside the box and with a story as simple as Dido, create something completely new.”

A new face

Maykowski comes to SDSU from Florida Grand Opera where she was director of artistic administration and head of the Young Artist Program. She directed all of the Young Artist performances and triumphed in her mainstage directing debut of "The Consul."

Maykowski has directed both university and professional productions, including "Dialogues of the Carmelites," "The Marriage of Figaro," "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "The Barber of Seville."