Mark Morris Dance Group to Perform ‘Dido and Aeneas’ at Center for the Arts

Posted: January 11, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

For the first time, legendary choreographer Mark Morris will present a full-length piece, Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas,” at Mason’s Center for the Arts.

Performances are scheduled on Friday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. A pre-performance discussion, free to ticket holders, will begin 45 minutes prior to each performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III.

Morris first staged this piece in 1989 at Brussels’ Théâtre de la Monnaie. The monumental work highlights the Dance Group’s talent for drama and Morris’s ability to create beautiful movement.

Scene from Dido and Aeneas
Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

“Dido and Aeneas” is based on the tragic love story between Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and Trojan refugee Aeneas, as told in Virgil’s “Aeneid.” When Morris first staged the opera, he drew intense interest and critical acclaim for his gender-bending dual roles as the doomed queen Dido and the evil Sorceress.

After retiring the piece for several years, Morris brought it back to the stage, initially separating the roles with a woman in the Dido role and a man in the Sorceress role, and then returning to the original staging with one dancer performing both roles.

Amber Darragh, a female dancer, will dance the roles of Dido and the Sorceress in the Feb. 15 performance, while Bradon McDonald, a male dancer, will perform both roles on Feb. 16.

Rita Donahue, a Mason dance alum and Mark Morris Dance Group member, will dance the role of the Second Woman in this production.

Morris’s staging of the piece demonstrates how a work transitions over time. Instead of imitating Morris’s style, the dancers have inhabited the roles, making them their own.

Known for appreciating and employing live music in his pieces, Morris will not only choreograph this danced opera but also conduct the chamber orchestra.

Tickets are $50, $42 and $25. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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