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Florentine Opera Spotlights Baroque Opera With 'Venus and Adonis' and 'Dido and Aeneas'

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Bonnie North
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Music historians generally agree that Western opera began around the turn of the 17th Century in Europe. However, the modern repertoire generally ignores the first 150 years in favor of the works of the mid 19th Century to early 20th Century. Works from composers like Puccini, Verdi, and Wagner get the majority of attention.

It’s only been in the last few decades that the earlier operas have been gaining a wider audience. The Florentine Opera is staging two early English operas this weekend: Venus and Adonis by John Blow, and Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell. 

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Credit Courtesy of the Florentine Opera
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The double-bill is being led from the harpsichord by Great Lakes Baroque founder Jory Vinikour. It’s the first time the Florentine has actually used a period orchestra, comprised of baroque period instruments, rather than modern ones.

"I love this genre in particular, I always have," says Bill Florescu, the artistic director of the Florentine Opera. 

He continues, "We didn't do our first Baroque opera until 2009 with Semele, but I've found our audience really likes it. We're in a city where [there's] Early Music Now, and now what Jory is doing with Great Lakes Baroque - there's an appetite for it." 

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Credit Courtesy of the Florentine Opera
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Mezzo-soprano, Sandra Piques-Eddy, is singing the title role of "Dido" in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. It's a role that inspired her to pursue her career in opera. 

"I heard 'Dido's Lament' in a form and analysis class at Boston Conservatory when I was an undergrad Music Education major," she explains. "I had some voice lessons during the week, but... I had no idea what opera was, at that time. I loved musical theater." 

She continues, "So I heard this music and immediately was taken by the feeling that was behind it, the word painting, the way the singer used her voice like an instrument. It just - it spoke to me." 

The Florentine Opera will perform Dido and Aeneas on a double-bill with Venus and Adonis at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall January 26 through January 28.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.