More than 1,000 people, including Secretary of Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, attended the staging of Henry Purcell's opera, Dido & Aeneas, at Marymount Secondary School. Dido & Aeneas, an ancient love story between an African queen and a Greek prince, was the school's third annual production. Producer Simon Sharp said this year's production was a new attempt. 'It's a lot more demanding. The singing is much more complicated,' he said. In 1999, the school staged Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and last year, a Chinese-style King Lear. Former student Callis Chan Ka- huen, 17, a performing arts lover, was invited by Mr Sharp to play the Carthage queen Dido. 'It is difficult to act while singing,' Ka-huen said. She said this was the most challenging task for most of the cast. Giuliana Auinger, 15, played the queen's handmaiden Elissa. She said working with the orchestra and getting into the right rhythm were crucial. As the school is a girls' school, the role of Trojan prince Aeneas had to be played by a girl. Ingrid Chen Si-yun, a Form Three student, was picked to play the prince. 'It's very challenging,' she said. It was not the first time that Si-yun had played a male role. 'When I was in primary school, I often played the father in dramas.' Taking part in the production was valuable training for Si-yun. 'I have learned a lot,' she said. The students had been rehearsing for the opera since December last year. They also did a lot of research to learn about the ancient characters. To imitate an ancient Greek theatre, an amphitheatre-style stage was especially designed and built in the school auditorium. Mr Sharp said the special stage enabled the audience to get closer to hear the singing more clearly. The costumes were designed by sixth formers Vera Chow and Diana Tai, who were inspired by movies such as Gladiator and others about ancient Greece or Rome. A 40-strong choir accompanied by a chamber orchestra were led by music teacher Joan Oxley. Yvonne Tam Yin-on, 14, enjoyed taking part in the opera. 'The cast exchanged ideas on how to sing and act.'