USD Opera bridges departments, merges talent for ‘Dido & Aeneas’

The University of South Dakota Opera will present a modern adaptation of the operatic masterpiece "Dido and Aeneas" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, at Aalfs Auditorium inside Slagle Hall.

"Dido and Aeneas, " presented by the USD Opera in conjunction with the USD Theatre, USD Chamber Singers and USD Chamber Orchestra, features a mythic queen, her lover and an evil sorceress bent on revenge.

"This opera is our largest-scale production to date," noted USD opera director Tracelyn Gesteland, D.M.A., assistant professor of music-voice/opera. "Modern audiences will enjoy our updated adaptation of Henry Purcell's classic dramatic masterpiece. This production relays the story of the opera not only with beautiful singing, but also through the use of ballet and modern dance to enhance the narrative."

The plot begins as young Queen Dido of Carthage, played by Natalie Campbell of Sioux Falls, mourns her late husband and is pursued by the Trojan Prince, Aeneas, played by Cody Perk of Yankton. In wooing Dido, Aeneas spurns the affections of the Sorceress, played by Laura Kuschel of St. Paul, resulting in dire consequences.

With choreography by sophomore music major Rebecca Hebda of Yankton, the opera also features Marissa Morris from Rapid City as Ballet Dido, Kenneth Granle from Mantorville, MN, as Ballet Aeneas, and Chaya Gordon-Bland, assistant professor of theatre, in the role of Ballet Sorceress.

In addition to combining the forces of voice and dance, USD Opera is blazing forward in new partnerships with the USD Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Marie-Elaine Gagnon, D.M.A., and Eunho Kim, D.M.A., both assistant professors of music at USD, as well as the USD Chamber Singers, directed by David Holdhusen, Ph.D., assistant professor of music.

In addition to preparing the Chamber Singers to serve as the opera chorus, Holdhusen will also conduct the orchestra for this performance. The production will also feature scenic elements created by the USD Theatre Department.

"The collaboration between USD Opera, the Chamber Singers and the Chamber Orchestra is an excellent opportunity to provide useful and invaluable experience to the student musicians within each ensemble," added Gesteland.

General admission tickets for "Dido & Aeneas" will be sold at the door ($10 adults/$5 students with I.D.). The hour-long opera is performed in English and includes supertitles for ease-of-understanding. The production also contains mature themes that are not intended for children.

For more information, contact the USD Department of Music at (605) 677-5274, e-mail or visit the department's Web site at

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