Director-conductor Christian Curnyn had prepared and choreographed the elegant semi-staging with such care he was able to withdraw into the audience, leaving the performance in the zestful hands of leader Simone Slattery, and an alert group of young singers. The ensemble was beautifully balanced and paced throughout, from the fizzing dances to the veiled laments, while the chorus was tonally well-blended.
Robyn Allegra Parton gave Belinda an appropriately bright openness, in marked contrast to Faustine de Monès’s more intense, but sometimes shadowy, Dido, whose words were too often obscure. Benjamin Appl had commanding presence as Aeneas, while Deborah Wong was an enjoyably nasty Sorceress, joined in the marvellous cackling episodes by the richly-hued voices of Felicity Smith and Solange Merdinian.
Without percussion or sound effects, the ‘horrid music’ of the storm lost some of its bite, though the sailors, led by François-Olivier Jean, provided a nicely comic interlude.
De Monès found the necessary tone of imperious dignity for her final tragic scenes, and her famous lament, wound in its rich shroud of strings, had a piercing poignancy in the church’s gathering gloom. Curnyn proved once again how this precious jewel of an opera can glitter afresh with each new generation.
Aldeburgh’s Britten Centenary celebrations continue on 11 May with The Canticles, featuring Ian Bostridge, also at the Brighton Festival on 9 May.