Acclaimed singers take to the Concert Hall stage for Verdi masterwork, Aida

Former Winnipegger, baritone Gregory Dahl, is returning to town to play King Amonasro in Aida.
Former Winnipegger, baritone Gregory Dahl, is returning to town to play King Amonasro in Aida.
Soprano Michele Capalbo has been thrilling audiences as Aida on this continent and overseas. She is shown here in 2008 in Manitoba Opera's Il Trovatore.
Soprano Michele Capalbo has been thrilling audiences as Aida on this continent and overseas. She is shown here in 2008 in Manitoba Opera’s Il Trovatore.

By Darlene Ronald

The enduringly popular opera Aida, by the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, is known for its lavish spectacle, pomp and pageantry, and more importantly, for the big vocal displays that both excite and send chills down the spines of its cast.

The demands on the singers are great, as Aida requires both vocal power and stamina to pull off the three-hour production, which features impassioned arias, surging choruses and gloriously inspired music. Manitoba Opera has assembled a top-notch international cast for its production, which closes the 40th season with three performances at the Centennial Concert Hall April 13, 16, and 19.

A tragic love triangle

At the core of the pageantry is the story of a very intimate human tragedy: a tragic love triangle with a Pharaoh’s daughter competing with her own Ethiopian slave for the love of an Egyptian general. Radames, the general, must choose between his love for Aida and his loyalty to the Pharaoh.
In the title role is Canadian soprano Michele Capalbo who has been singing the role to great acclaim in North America and overseas. The Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Opera News noted the singer “…performed a world-class Aida, passionate, subtle, and vocally satisfying.” Capalbo made her Manitoba Opera debut in 2008 as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila, appearing for the first time with the company, will sing the role of Radames, the Egyptian captain of the guard. “Davila displayed a lyrical voice with a spectacular upper range and beautifully focused tone,” was the comment of the Kansas City Star.

Another singer making her Manitoba Opera debut is the Italian-born, mezzo-soprano Tiziana Carraro who will sing Amneris, the Egyptian princess. Of her performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2012, it was said: “As Amneris, Carraro was outstanding. She is a fantastic interpreter of the role, sexy with a silky yet powerful voice, walking with a truly believable swagger.” The comment is from musicalcriticism.com.

The incomparable Phil Ens, who hails from Manitoba, made his debut with the company in 1985 and has gone on to sing at prestigious opera houses all over the world. He will be featured in the role of Ramfis, a high priest. “…it was a stupendous sing, oozing malevolence, stoking up the tension bar after bar,” was the online comment of a.com.

Former Winnipegger, baritone Gregory Dahl, will be making his role debut as Amonasro, the King of Ethiopia and Aida’s cunning father. “Dahl’s lusty, powerful voice holds true from top to bottom, and his stage presence is commanding and secure,” said an impressed Times Colonist critic in Victoria). Dahl appeared last season with Manitoba Opera as John the Baptist in Salome.

The Winnipeg-based, bass-baritone David Watson has appeared numerous times with Manitoba Opera since his debut over 30 years ago. In this production, he will be singing the role of Amneris’ father, the King of Egypt.

A singer to watch

Winnipeg soprano Lara Ciekiewicz, who is making her mark as a singer-actress, will appear as the high priestess. She last graced the Manitoba Opera stage as Papagena in The Magic Flute in 2011. The role of the messenger will be sung by Terry Mierau. This Saskatchewan-born tenor recently returned to Canada with his family to take up farming in Manitoba. He and his wife had both been opera singers in Europe.

Aida will be directed by Brian Deedrick and conducted by Ty Paterson. It will be sung in Italian with projected English translations.

Tickets are on sale now. Call the Manitoba Opera box office at 204-944-8824; in person visit the lower level, Centennial Concert Hall weekdays between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m; online visit tickets.manitobaopera.mb.ca. For more information about the production, visit manitobaopera.mb.ca.

Go to the Lifestyles 55 website to enjoy a performance of the stirring, tap-your-feet-to Triumphal March from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Darlene Ronald is marketing director at Manitoba Opera.

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