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Ohio State departments team up for ‘Dido and Aeneas’

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The Ohio State Department of Dance and Opera and Lyric Theatre is set to present "Didos and Aeneas" beginning Oct. 20. Credit: Courtesy of Jess Lavender

The Ohio State Department of Dance and School of Music is set to present “Dido and Aeneas” beginning Oct. 20. Credit: Courtesy of Jess Cavender

The Ohio State School of Music and Department of Dance are coming together for the first time in years to perform a grand opera.

Music and dance students are set to premiere their production of “Dido and Aeneas” Thursday. According to the Department of Music website, the show is a combination of music and drama intertwined with vibrant dance and choral writing.

A. Scott Parry, director of OSU Opera and Lyric Theatre and the director of the show, said he chose this opera with the idea of a collaborative project.

“It’s really great to utilize so many different points of view and to bring (the performance) to so many different constituencies,” he said. “I think that’s always a strength of any production — bringing together a lot of different ranges (of different crafts).”

He also chose this project in an effort to provide diversity in the music school’s repertoire. Parry said he likes the opera show’s focus on the storytelling of the movement and the visual orientation of color and emotion.

“The idea of how color and sound interact with emotion is what I thought was a really important element,” Parry said. “It is very much based in dance, and I really wanted to push that element since we are collaborating with the dance department.”

Susan Van Pelt Petry, a professor of dance and the choreographer for the show, said her cast of dancers ranges from second-years to graduate students. During the audition process, she said she was looking for students majoring in dance who also had some acting ability, since the performance has more acting than they usually do in their dance pieces.

“The dancers are portraying characters through their movements,” she said. “The dancers are, in a way, trying to help the story move along. It’s very integrated. The movement changes a lot from very kind of classical and pretty to very grotesque and kind of asymmetrical.”

She also said the show has contemporary dance, but it also has a lot of ballet connections since the music is classical.

Kristina Caswell MacMullen, the conductor of the orchestra, said this opera was a work she had always greatly admired and wanted to conduct, especially with the emphasis on the chorus.

“The chorus is so critical to the musical landscape,” she said. “To accompany most of the soloists we are using a 12-string guitar, called a theorbo, which is a more classical type of banjo, but in real life it is quite huge.”

Parry said most of the students involved in the production have never done a classical opera like this before.

“I love the idea of education and bringing awareness to students to do something that they never would have done before,” he said. “I love the way that music and theater and dance and visual arts all come together to do storytelling and the way that engages the artist with the community.”

The opera will premiere at 8 p.m. on Thursday and run through Sunday, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students, senior citizens, OSU Alumni Association members, staff and faculty. Tickets are available via the OSU Theatre box office and Ticketmaster.

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