Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Antonio Ghislanzoni
Director: Ellen Kent
Conductor: Vasyl Vasylenko
Verdi’s Aida is opera on the grand scale and this production by Ellen Kent certainly does not disappoint in terms of its visual staging and spectacle. The Alhambra is undoubtedly not the biggest theatre this opera will ever have been performed upon but the design makes full use of the space at hand to deliver an enthralling theatre experience that will live long in the memory. A traditional Egyptian setting – all god statues, grand temples, royal palace and colourful costumes with a hint of the Coloseum and ancient Greece – is topped by the entrance of a real live stallion which only the Bradford audience are fortunate enough to see (because of animal performing restrictions in other venues).
The story itself is a tragic one of war, jealousy and revenge at whose heart is the doomed love of the beautiful Ethiopian slave girl, Aida, and the Egyptian hero and general Radames. Egypt and Ethiopia are at war and Aida, who is a princess, has been captured and taken to Memphis in Egypt to act as slave to Amneris, daughter of the Pharaoh. The problem is that Amneris also loves Radames and so the eternal love triangle unfolds. The other main character is Aida’s father, the Ethiopian king Amonasro. All the principal soloists in these roles are superb, demonstrating their vocal talents admirably. In the title role Olga Perrier shines, her soprano voice effortlessly reaching the high notes and sustaining all the deep emotion and passion that the part entails. She also looks stunning and you can see why Radames would fall for her. Sorin Lupu (Radames), Natalia Matveeva (Amneris) and Olexandr Forkushak (Amonasro) all provide sterling support. These artists are complemented by an excellent orchestra and chorus, with the justifiably famous Triumphal Entry a pronounced highlight.
Whilst the main company are uniformly excellent, some of the very minor roles lack a certain professionalism that detracts from the overall effect and result in the production not achieving the perfect score it undoubtedly warrants.
At the curtain call the full company perform the national anthem of Ukraine whilst displaying the national flag and this very much appeals to the audience. It occurs to your reviewer that a largely Ukrainian company performing an opera in which one country (Egypt) is attacked and invaded by another (Ethiopia) and which vows to defend their country to the last man is very apposite in the current world climate, and lends this particular production a very topical and pertinent bent.
Reviewed on 18th March 2023.