Ellen Kent is in town again, this time with that old favourite from the pen of Giuseppe Verdi, Aida.
Premiered in Cairo in 1871, this opera tells the story of Aida, daughter of an Ethiopian King, captured and enslaved by the Egyptians. Her new employer, the daughter of the Pharaoh, and her both fall madly in love with the same man, Radames, who is given the post of Commander of the Egyptian Armies and tasked with quelling and overcoming the attack by the Ethiopian army attempting to rescue their princess.
It is Grand Opera and so is doomed from the start, and so all our protagonists either die or lose everything they have lived for, all in the name of love.
Ellen Kent's productions are known for their spectacle and on that level tonight's show certainly did not disappoint. A lavish set, with colourful costumes, bold lighting design and a chorus of ballet dancers, fire-jugglers, and our anti-hero riding on stage seated on Houdini, a large stallion. However, for me at least, that spectacle and the appreciation thereof was diminished simply because of its lack of historical accuracy. The set was Roman; Corinthian columns, pointed pediment, and more modern Neo-Classical angels either side!, whilst the costumes were of mixed progeny, and little resembled those worn by the Ancient Egyptians. Persian, Greek and indeed Roman influences were aplenty. And the Ancient Egyptians certainly did not have Classical ballet dancers, and more than probably never actually rode a horse, but used them for pulling chariots!
However, the singing was indeed excellent. Aida (Olga Perrier) gave a stunning vocal and physical portrayal of the tormented princess, whilst Radames (Georgio Meladze), with lyrical tenor voice gave a great performance as the Egyptian torn between his duty and his love. The Pharaoh's daughter, Amneris (Zarui Vardanean) gave a thrillingly chilling performance. We believed in her love but her heart was cold. With The Pharaoh (Oleksandr Forkushak) and The High Priest, Ramfis, (Vadym Chernihovskyi) making a lovely bass double-act. I personally thought the most enigmatic performer, with a great presence and sonorous voice, was The King of Ethiopia, Amonasro (Iurie Gisca).
With some young girls brought in from local Stagecoach Theatre Arts Schools, dancers from The Northern Ballet School, and the chorus from UK Opera Singers, this opera is bound to appeal and delight. The chorus singing was superb! It's quite a long production, running at 3 hours 15 minutes with 2 intervals, but there is always something either visually or aurally to enjoy. What a pity though that at the end of the show, only the leads came on to take a bow. I wanted to applaud everyone!
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 5th May 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★