Sea glitter and fire crackling

Sea glitter and fire crackling

Elisabeth Ritonja

Foto: (Julia Kampichler )


September 2023

Korhan Basaran impressed the audience of the "wortwiege" with his "Dido" in the Kasematten in Wiener Neustadt.

According to Greek mythology, Dido, who came from Phoenician royalty, was the founder of Carthage. She fled her homeland to escape her brother and, by acting intelligently, obtained enough land in the new land where she had arrived with followers and ships to build Carthage. Described as a tall, beautiful, wise and untouchable queen, she fell in love, through the intervention of the gods, with Aeneas, who, having fled Troy, asked her for the right to stay. The love story, which ends tragically, has been adapted many times in literature and found its way into some 90 operas. Henry Purcell created “Dido and Aeneas“, from which ‘Dido’s Lament‘ gave rise to one of the most famous and beautiful mourning arias in operatic history.

Turkish dancer and choreographer Korhan Basaran made a guest appearance at the wortwiege festival “Europe in Scene“, this time subtitled “Sea change”. He presented his dance piece “Dido” in which he himself slips into the role of the woman loved and then abandoned by Aeneas. The gods demand of Aeneas to leave Dido alone in Carthage to sail across the sea with his people in order to found a city himself, namely Rome. This breaks the heart of the once proud woman. Basaran condenses the action to the last moments of Dido’s life, after she has been abandoned by Aeneas, and makes visible all the emotions that heartbreak can bring. In Dido’s inner monologue, he concentrates on the existential emotions that arise at the moment of abandonment. Small paper boats, folded by the audience under his guidance at the beginning of the performance and placed on the stage floor, make it clear: it is the sea that has brought the two lovers together, but ultimately also separates them again. Underpinned with musical layers by composer Tolga Yayalar, Purcell’s Dido Lament resonates from the start. If at first it is only the harmony sequence, transposed into electronic sounds, that can be heard delicately, at the end Dido herself will sing along the refrain of this lament loudly and emotionally fiercely moved. Yayalar also created the auditory perceptions of the horn of a large steamer, the chirping of birds, ominous-sounding demon noises, and the cracking and crackling of burning wood. Ataman Girisken also contributes significantly to the success of the production with his visuals. Depending on the mood, he bathes the space in glittering blue and white wave refractions, provides it with a twinkling starry sky, transforms it into a dark cave or triggers frightening moments when Dido meets her death at the stake. Red tongues of fire blaze until the figure of Dido lying on the ground visually dissolves. The billowing conflagration that follows also remains palpable in its abstractly designed undulations, which at the same time seem incredibly aesthetic.


Korhan Basaran’s Dido is wracked by painful convulsions, but also reveals that defensiveness that results from wounded pride. An expressive facial expression makes every single emotional emotion visible. Be it despair, fear, hope or disgust. The tall figure in a long skirt, the upper part of the body clad only in a shirt, conveys in a contemporary way the image of Dido that has been handed down in tradition. But Basaran also slips into Aeneas, who, lantern in hand, affirms to Dido that it is not his will but that of the gods why he must leave her. It is the brilliantly crafted melange of his expressive dance, the selected text passages from Virgil and Christopher Marlowe that he recites, the atmospheric visuals as well as the music that create a harmonious, emotionally gripping stage event. With Basaran’s interpretation of Dido, he continues to write a tradition that has captivated countless generations to date and, judging by the audience reaction, continues to emotionally grip them today.

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