Press Office

student opera

Encore! Newcastle University students stage 17th-Century Baroque opera

Published on: 15 March 2022

Some of the country’s brightest young musical talents will take to the stage to perform the first great English opera next week.


Newcastle University music students will give a fully-staged - and sold out - performance of Dido and Aeneas, an opera by Henry Purcell, at the beautiful Lit and Phil library on Sunday 20 March.

The short but intense one-hour tale of tragic love tells the story of how Dido, Queen of Carthage, is abandoned by the Trojan hero Aeneas. Dating back to 1689, it also features semi-comical scenes of witches, spirits, and sailors.

Each of the singers and players in Dido and Aeneas is a music student and the opera is being staged as part of a module developed especially for the University’s music degree by Dr Larry Zazzo.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students from all musical backgrounds, many with little or no operatic or stage experience, to integrate what they're learning about Baroque opera in lectures and reading into a very practical, hands-on experience."

Music students rehearsing Dido and Aeneas


The set and costumes have been designed by Eva Masterman, formerly the University’s Norman Lipmann Ceramics Fellow and currently pursuing doctoral studies, while the historically-informed choreography is by Oxford University Baroque dance and gesture scholar Dionysios Kyropoulos. The orchestra is composed of a mix of Music staff and students from across the University.

Jessica Sara Prothero, from Ashington, Northumberland, is a second year undergraduate singer-songwriter who will be singing the 'Spirit' who delivers the bad news to Aeneas. With little prior experience in classical singing, Dido and Aeneas has been an opportunity for Jessica to experiment with a new singing style. She said: “I am really excited for the production, and especially to showcase everything the Baroque opera team have achieved this year. This has been an amazing opportunity.”

This project has had a long gestation period— the original performance of Dido at Newcastle had been set for March 2020 but had to be abandoned a week before the premiere due to the pandemic. So Zazzo, Masterman, Kyropoulos and this year's entirely new cast of student performers and production team, are excited to give Dido and its music the voice it deserves after a difficult few years.

The performance is sold out but you can be added to the waiting list by contacting the Lit and Phil directly on 0191 232 0192.


Latest News