Marina thrilled to reprise Dido role in new prequel

Published: 16 May 2011 at 11:48

World premiere of Aeneas in Hell to be staged at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge

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Marina Karagianni is delighted to be returning to Anglia Ruskin University later this month to star in the world premiere staging of Aeneas in Hell at the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge.

The mezzo-soprano, who was born in South Africa and raised in Thessaloniki, Greece, is playing the role of Dido in both Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas and the prequel Aeneas in Hell from 24-28 May.

Marina moved to Cambridge from Greece in 2003 to study for an MA in Music, and while at Anglia Ruskin she was awarded a postgraduate bursary to fund her research into the music of Percy Grainger.

“I graduated from Anglia Ruskin is 2006 and this is the first time that I’ll be singing in Cambridge since then, so I’m thrilled to be back,”

explained Marina.

 “I had a lovely time at Anglia Ruskin, living near Mill Road, and I felt incredibly well supported during my studies for my MA.”

As a soloist Marina has sung music by Durufle, Mozart and Berio, and last month she performed some of Handel’s cantatas at St Martin in the Fields in London. Marina’s opera experience includes appearing in Paul Bunyan, by Benjamin Britten, and Dido & Aeneas.  This summer she will be taking part in Co-Opera’s production of the Magic Flute in London and on tour around the UK.

“I’ve sang the part of Dido before in 2005 and I thoroughly enjoyed it because I’m a huge fan of baroque music,”

said Marina.

 “Although Dido & Aeneas is only a short opera, the role of Dido is very interesting dramatically. Dido, for me, symbolises the eternal conflict between our good and dark sides.

“It is her own fear of death that makes her so unhappy by interfering in her relationship with Aeneas.  This is why she sings ‘remember me, remember me’ in her famous last aria ‘When I am laid in earth’ – she is terrified of dying and being forgotten.  In my eyes, she is not heroic but simply human.

“We’ve been busy rehearsing for Aeneas in Hell and I think it’s a fantastic idea for an opera and it makes a perfect match for Dido & Aeneas.”

The new opera, Aeneas in Hell, has been devised by British librettist and music critic Paul Griffiths as a prequel to Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and is based on a later episode in Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid.  Aeneas in Hell uses spoken text to link the musical numbers, which come from theatre scores originally written by Purcell for other pieces.

Dido & Aeneas relates the tragic story of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, and her love for the Trojan prince, Aeneas, who abandons her in pursuit of the establishment of a new Troy. Performed before Dido & Aeneas, but recounting Aeneas’s meeting with Dido after she has killed herself, Aeneas in Hell propels Aeneas towards a reliving of his crucial betrayal.

Paul Griffiths, who was a music critic for The Times before writing for The New York Times and The New Yorker, said:

“What inspired me was the big love affair between these two characters. He leaves, she kills herself and they then find themselves in hell and aren’t speaking, so it is a huge tragedy.

“I’ve only slightly changed the text from John Dryden’s translation of Aeneid. I used lines from that, spoken by the characters, and then made up lines of my own lines in ‘Dryden speak’. However, neither Dido nor Aeneas sings until Purcell’s opera.

 “Purcell wrote so much music for the theatre that is never performed, so it provides an opportunity for that and also works as an obvious companion piece for Dido & Aeneas.”

Anglia Opera’s production, directed by Simon Bell, and designed by John Clarke from the Cambridge School of Art, conceives the two pieces as a single chain of events, with common characters and motifs occurring throughout.

“Our approach has been to make the archaic relevant, and to translate the 17th-century notion of tragedy into a form modern audiences can relate to,”

said conductor Paul Jackson, who is Head of Music & Performing Arts at Anglia Ruskin University.

“Paul Griffiths’ work is masterful and forms the perfect accompaniment for Dido & Aeneas. We are delighted that Anglia Opera will be giving the first ever staged version of Aeneas in Hell.”

Anglia Opera, which consists of outstanding young professional soloists combined with a full orchestra and chorus drawn from students in the Department of Music & Performing Arts, will be staging the double bill at Anglia Ruskin’s Mumford Theatre between 24-28 May, although there will be no performance on Thursday 26 May.

Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions and £7 students) and are available by calling 0845 196 2320 or by visiting