‘Let’s fill our concert hall for every performance of
Verdi’s magnificent opera, Aida’
The opera is so much more than just listening to the “fat lady sing”. It is a complete 360-degree experience of voice, symphony, colour, costume and beautiful sets. That we can mount this visual and audio extravaganza in Winnipeg never fails to amaze me. I can’t recommend this wonderful experience to you too highly. If you’ve never gone before, don’t miss it, If you have, then you already know that it’s an event you don’t want to miss. Let’s fill our concert hall every night Aida is on this spring!
By Darlene Ronald
A cast and chorus of 68 singers, 71 musicians, 22 extras, 10 dancers, one conductor – and that’s just the performers! Then there’s the three semi-trailers containing the sets, close to 150 costumes and dozens of people behind the scenes. Bringing the grandest of the grand operas—Aida—to the stage may sound like a monumental task, but it’s all in a day’s work for Manitoba Opera.
Known for its pomp and spectacle, impassioned arias, surging choruses and exhilarating orchestral music, Verdi’s Aida will close out Manitoba Opera’s 40th season with three performances – April 13, 16, and 19 – at the Centennial Concert Hall.
Premiering at the Cairo Opera House in 1871, Aida 142 years later continues to reign as one of the most popular operas of all time. One of the largest operas that Manitoba Opera stages, it has not been seen in Winnipeg for over a decade.
Like most North American opera companies, Manitoba Opera rents its sets and costumes. In this instance, the set has been rented from Edmonton Opera and will be travelling to Winnipeg in three trailers, rather than the usual two semi-trailers that most sets require.
It will take two days for load-in (unloading the trailers and assembling the sets), which will require 33 stage hands the first day and 29 the second. With seven scene changes, 25 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ( IATSE) stage hands will be on deck for Aida performances compared to 17 required for last fall’s performances of Rigoletto and just six for Salome in November, 2011.
Also working behind the curtain on performance nights will be another roughly 29 people including stage management, the Concert Hall house crew, dressers and hair and make-up artists.
The centrepiece for the show – an impressive sphinx-like head over 32 feet high – will set the stage, transporting the audience back to the dynasty of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Primarily constructed of heavy-duty styrofoam, the head consists of three interlocking sections that require their own semi- trailer for transportation. Close to 150 costumes will be showcased in the production which also requires dozens of headdresses, sandals and other footwear.
Although Aida is the ultimate grand opera in scope, at the centre of the pageantry lies an intimate love triangle where passion has crossed enemy lines to forge a secret forbidden romance. The great Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi, has masterfully balanced the pomp and pageantry with this deeply moving personal tragedy to create an opera experience you will never forget.
The opera’s story focuses on Aida, an Ethiopian princess. After the Egyptians defeat her people, she is forced to become a slave to Amneris, daughter of the Egyptian king. When she falls in love with Radames, leader of the Egyptian forces, Aida must choose between her devotion to him and her duty to her people. Radames also struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To further complicate the story, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh’s daughter as well, although he does not return her feelings.
Aida will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.
Tickets are on sale now. Call the Manitoba Opera box office, 204-944-8824; in person visit lower level, Centennial Concert Hall (9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday); online: tickets.manitobaopera.mb.ca. For more information about the production, visit manitobaopera.mb.ca.
Darlene Ronald is Director of Marketing at Manitoba Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera performs the Triumphal March from Act II Scene 2 of Guiseppe Verdi’s Aida.