Double the drama: UAB Opera presents two one-act operas

UAB Opera presents a double bill: Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” and Benjamin Britten’s “The Burning Fiery Furnace” March 11-12, 2011.

Opera lovers will enjoy twice the entertainment when the UAB Department of Music presents a double bill performance of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” and Benjamin Britten’s “The Burning Fiery Furnace,” March 11 and 12, 2011.

"The Burning Fiery Furnace." Download image.

Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” tells the story of the Queen of Carthage; it will be staged with traditional Baroque gestures and dances. “The Burning Fiery Furnace” has a nearly all-male cast and recounts the story from the Hebrew scriptures of Nebuchadnezzar and the three Israelites.

Purcell and Britten often are paired as the two most important British composers, though their work was more than three centuries apart, says UAB Opera Director Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, D.M.A. Purcell flourished in the Baroque period, while Britten’s work was solidly in the 20th century. In many ways, the composers are bookends of British classical music.

“There is something for everyone in this evening of two very different shows,” Hurst-Wajszczuk says. “Both operas are very dramatic. After several years of exploring productions with some built-in humor, it was time to give the students something darker and more intense.” The staging for “Furnace” is much more restrained, per the directions of the composer, while the music itself is much more adventurous than the Purcell.

Both shows feature vocal-award-winning students in several leading roles. “Given the extremely high level of vocal talent in our department, I chose operas that challenge them in different ways,” she says.

Both shows will be performed back-to-back at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, 2011, and again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center Sirote Theatre, 1200 10th Ave. South. The performance, led by Hurst-Wajszczuk, will feature full costumes and an orchestra; Les Fillmer will conduct. Tickets are $10, $15 and $20. Advance-purchase tickets for groups of 10 or more are $5 per person. Call 205-975-2787 for tickets. Visit the Department of Music online at

The cast of “Dido and Aeneas” is Jessica Johnson of Florence as Dido; Madison Holler of Helena as Belinda; Tyler Henderson of Huntsville as Aeneas; Nancy Lewis of Washington, D.C., as Sorceress/Spirit; Stacia McKee of Marshall, Minn., as Second Woman; Ashley Lewis of Newport News, Va. and Lindsay Warner of Dothan as First Witch and Second Witch; and Mark Kunkel of Napa, Calif., as First Sailor. The cast is completed by a chorus of nearly 20 students.

The cast of “The Burning Fiery Furnace” is Shane Bloemetjie of Huntsville as Nebuchadnezzar; Charles Daniel of Gardendale as The Astrologer/Abbott /Herald; Will Sparks of Birmingham as Ananias; Micah Brooker of Clay as Misael; Tyler Henderson of Huntsville as Azarias; and Stacia McKee of Marshall, Minn., as the Angel. The cast is completed by 11 students performing as courtiers and attendants.