Shakespeare-style opera kickstarts Rome season

Henry Purcell's opera 'Dido and Aenaes' opens the season at Rome's Baths of Caracalla ruins on Thursday, with a new production the director described as uniting the classical world with the English theatre tradition.

Shakespeare-style opera kickstarts Rome season
The Baths of Caracalla ruins in Rome where the opera will be staged. Photo: teldridge+keldridge

The 1689 work by English Baroque composer Purcell, which tells the tragic story of the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, will be staged in the open-air, atmospheric setting of the ancient baths, in a part of the ruins which can seat just 200 spectators.

"I have tried to marry the myth created by Virgil around Aenaes, which inspired Purcell, and this magical place," director Chiara Muti told AFP at the final rehearsal, as the witches in the opera danced on stage, casting large shadows onto the towering stone walls.

"It's about mixing different cultures: my production unites the classical world and the English theatre tradition, in a very Shakespearean atmosphere," she said.

In order to illustrate the dark story of betrayal, despair and death, Muti said she chose to use a circular platform to create "a space where things come together and come undone… where objects, feelings are transformed."

Aenaes' bed, the scene of great passion, is transformed into his ship in which he abandons Dido, sparking the opera's famous haunting final lament, "When I am laid in earth."

The costumes aim to "recreate the English court in Purcell's time" and dialogue with "the pictorial vision of English tourists who historically toured Italy."

The opera, which runs until June 16th, is directed musically by Britain's Jonathan Webb. The season will continue with Italian composer Pietro Antonio Stefano Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" (1890) and Giacomo Puccini's melodramatic opera "Tosca" (1900).

Italian composer Ennio Morricone – famed for writing the music for several of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns as well as other Hollywood classics – will also be conducting a concert of his own music in the baths on July 25th.

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Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs

Damiano David, the frontman of Italy's Eurovision winners Maneskin, has passed a drug test he took on Monday to clear his name after speculation that he had snorted cocaine at the song contest's grand final.

Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs
Damiano David of Maneskin performs at the Eurovision final. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

A drug test was “voluntarily undertaken earlier today by the lead singer of the band Måneskin which has returned a negative result seen by the EBU”, the European Broadcasting Union announced on Monday evening. 

“No drug use took place in the Green Room and we consider the matter closed,” the EBU said in a statement, adding that it had checked all available video footage as part of “a thorough review of the facts”.

READ ALSO: Italian Eurovision winners ‘really offended’ by accusations of drug use

David, who was shown on camera leaning over a table backstage in what some speculated could be drug use, had strongly denied the allegations. 

He said the footage showed him sweeping up some glass broken by one of his bandmates.

Måneskin with their trophy after winning the final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Sander Koning / ANP / AFP

There had been calls for “total transparency” from officials in France, which came a close second in the song contest, after the clip went viral following Saturday’s final in the Netherlands.

The French minister for Europe said that drug use should be grounds for disqualification, though the head of France’s public broadcasting group said they did not plan to challenge the result.

David told interviewers he was “really offended” by the speculation, which he said had marred Italy’s first Eurovision victory in 31 years.

“We are alarmed that inaccurate speculation leading to fake news has overshadowed the spirit and the outcome of the event and unfairly affected the band,” the EBU said, adding that it was looking forward to “a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in Italy next year”.