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This Week at St Mary’s

Sumptuous Aida in Verona’s Arena

Louise Third writes:

Do you have a ‘bucket list’? The experiences you wish to be able to say, ‘I’ve done that’? My husband Andrew loves classical music, including opera, so a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Arena in Verona was up there near the top of his list. The 100th Arena di Verona Opera Festival 2023 was the perfect excuse, so tickets for the Sunday 3rd September performance were secured a year ago. Hosted by friends who have conveniently moved to Verona, we joined the vast audience of opera lovers to experience director Stefano Poda’s creation.  He was responsible for everything – including the sets, costumes, lighting, and choreography, and he took every opportunity to impress and entertain. 

Aida premiered in Cairo on December 24th, 1871, to great acclaim from a public enraptured by the story of the daughter of the Ethiopian king, enslaved and deported to Egypt, where she falls in love with the commander of the Egyptian troops, Radames.

Although soprano Anna Netrebko opened the 2023 season as Aida, her place in the title role as the Ethiopian Princess was subsequently taken by Elena Stikhina.  Yusif Eyvazov sang Radamès, and Olesya Petrova Amneris. Roman Burdenko sang Amonasro and Michele Pertusi sang Ramfis. To my untutored ear, the delivery at our performance was superb, although the distance between our seats and the stage meant the subtleties of colour, expression, and movement were somewhat limited.

At the time, we were unable to appreciate the incredible costumes created by   Stefano Poda and his team, not only for the leading characters but also for over 200 extras. Jackets made with hundreds of mosaic mirrors, dresses in precious red plisse with metal mesh bustiers and headgear were reflected in the mirrored floor. The use of laser beams, a metallic moon, gigantic mechanical hand, and spaceship debris could have been a scene from Star Wars, but the artistry worked to spectacular       effect.

By chance, the next day we found a recording of the production’s opening night on YouTube as our Italian holiday took us to a quiet AirB&B in Padua. Re-living the production on screen was a treat, but being there in person had been a real joy.

Enjoy for yourself

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