With the semester coming to a close, the PCC Opera Workshop ended on a bittersweet note on Sunday with its double feature of “Dido and Aeneas” and “Not in Front of the Waiter,” also known as “Under the Aspidistra.”As the climax of the opera students’ work thus far, the performance picked up slowly with its opening opera, Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” Acclaimed as a frequently studied Baroque opera by music students abroad, the story reenacted the droning tale of Dido, the queen of Carthage, and her love Aeneas, a Trojan prince.
The two are torn apart by a sorceress who plots for her minion to disguise as a god to persuade Aeneas to leave his beloved to conquer Latin land for the name of Troy. The sorceress succeeds and the end result is a brokenhearted Dido’s unwillingness to live without Aeneas, she kills herself by poison.
Whether it was the gut delving notes or the pirouettes by the nymph-like maidens, the student talent of Dido played by Briana Blythe could not save the tiresome and elongated storyline. The overdramatic styling of a classic Roman tragedy made it unbearable to witness Dido’s incredibly slow death as she spent over 15 minutes dying.
The event, however, was saved with its second act, a performance of “Not in Front of the Waiter” by Jacques Offenbach. Juxtapose the melodramatics of the former opera, this performance had the makings of an ideal comedy – audience interaction, exaggerated unrealism and all.
The humorous tale depicts two married couples, cheating on their spouses with the spouse of the other, and their coincidental encounter at a restaurant with their lover.
Like an over-the-top daytime soap, the plot reaches the ultimate twist as the waiter Block, who witnesses the commotion unfold, reveals that he is the father of the cheating women. The performance by Hortensia Tamayo, playing the attention-whoring Madame Solange de ChÂƒteau-Yquen, and Andrea Martyn, the worrisome Madame Hortense de Tavel-Rosé, showed a true appreciation for their characters with every embellished gesture.
Had it not been for “Not in Front of the Waiter,” the two-part performance would have ended like the death of Dido, drawn out and somber.