Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Lyrics: Antonio Ghislanzoni
Director: Ellen Kent
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Opera &Ballet International opens Ellen Kent’s Aida on its first evening of its UK Spring Tour at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre. Verdi’s opera, premiered at Cairo’s Opera House in December 1871, stars an international cast of artists and members of the critically acclaimed Moldovan orchestras.
A year before the premiere, Verdi was commissioned by then the Khedive of Egypt to compose Aida which is adapted on texts by Auguste Mariette and Camille Du Loche. Ghislanzoni’s lyrics are set to the music. Aida features in many opera companies’ repertories around the world and a Broadway hit musical has been adapted from the opera’s story though to different music.
The story is about Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is captured in battle and enslaved to serve Amneris, Princess of Egypt. Radames, Captain of the Guard, falls in love with Aida but Amneris is in love with him, forming an awkward love triangle. Set in Ancient Egypt this tragic opera explores the themes of power, class, love, betrayal and revenge which are thrown in with Egyptian rituals, sacred temples and goddesses.
Unlike many operas, Aida has a short overture which leads straight in to the action. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on the brass instruments such as the trumpets and wide range of percussion – particularly noted in the popular Grand March in the Second Act. The opera is exotic and melodramatic, with focus on the story as much as Verdi’s masterpiece and equally emotive with the music being conducted and the lyrics sung.
Olga Perrier, emotively portrays Aida who is vulnerable and is in the clutches of Amneris (Zarui Vardanean). However she is optimistic about the love she and Radames (Giorgio Meladze) have, though marred with a moving poignant duet, La Fatal Pietra Sovra Me Si Chiuse in which Perrier and Meladze sing with conviction about being together throughout eternity at the end of Act Four.
The chorus supports the ensemble roles including the younger performers from Stagecoach Theatre Arts across West Yorkshire and artists across the country. There are some interesting features in the production such as a presence of a fire spinner, courtesy of Harry Kingham, during the Radames’ military victory ceremony in the second act.
With traditional sets and costumes pleasing to the eye, this is an enjoyable production which invites the audience to enjoy a classical opera and gain insight into Ancient Egypt. They, like the opera’s creators, are serenaded with the Orientalism and exoticism, complimented with storytelling via song and Verdi’s musical masterpiece.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed