«Aida» weights 30 tons
The premiere of the year! Astana Opera House and Teatro alla Scala present: on November 19, 21 and 22 – G. Verdi’s opera «Aida». Italian artist, producer, director, screenwriter, twice nominated for «Oscar» Franco Zeffirelli staged the production for the young theatre «Astana Opera».
An eminent star cast was invited to participate in the opera: the American soprano Kristin Lewis is in the title role. The singer received the «Artist of the Year» award at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 2010. In addition, she was awarded the «Oscars of the Opera» from the «Arena di Verona» Foundation. Famous American journalist Larry Lash from «Musical America Worldwide» said in his article about Christine Lewis: «Roars of bravas were awarded Kristin Lewis, a «little girl from Little Rock,» who has mastered the Verdi lirico-spinto repertoire in Italy’s major houses over the last few years and for whom the time was right for her Staatsoper debut as Aida. A beautiful woman with a luminous stage presence and a luscious, dark voice, she scored a triumph with her elegant, sensitive phrasing highlighted by ethereal pianissimos, held, seemingly, forever… Her greatest feat was conquering the treacherously difficult Act 3 scena beginning «Qui Radam?s verr??» that leads to the aria «O patria mia,» featuring a notorious exposed mid-phrase high C, and ending in floated pianissimos. I would have to go back to the heyday of Montserrat Caballe for such an exquisitely sculpted rendition… At the reception honoring Lewis after the performance, Staatsoper Intendant Dominique Meyer proclaimed her «the new Viennese soprano».
Italian tenor Walter Fraccarro will sing Radames in «Astana Opera». The artist is regularly invited to the world’s most prestigious stages, such as: Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and many others. On the second day the tenor from Italy Gustavo Porta will perform Radames. One of the greatest artists of his generation, a baritone with rich timbre Luca Salsi will perform Amonasro on the first premiere day, Alberto Gazale (Italy) will take the stage on the second day. Marina Prudenskaya (Mariinsky Theatre, Russia) will perform Amneris on the first day. Marina Prudenskaya’s plasticity in the dance arias is often called catlike, her rich, almost contralto-esque mezzo-soprano always brings rave reviews from the critics. On the second day Ekaterina Gubanova will perform this role.
For the first time in «Astana Opera» inсomparable Keri-Lynn Wilson from Canada will take the conductor’s stand. She is known by all the opera houses of the world, the energy emanating from this woman is breathtaking. Wilson herself believes that «conducting a masterpiece is a huge challenge.»
About 200 people, ranging from opera singers, male and female choir, ballet, orchestra and supers, ending with the children, are involved in the production. The complexity and scale of the production is that between the first and second acts all the artists have to completely change costumes, wigs and makeup in a few minutes. Massive as well as extremely complex multilayer and multi-storied set pieces grow and disappear before our eyes. Needless to say, the number of attendants behind the scenes almost equals the number of the artists on stage.
It took 17 heavy-duty trucks to britng the marvelous scenery, over four hundred costumes, each consisting of 10 to 15 costume pieces, jewelry, belts, capes, and props to Kazakhstan. The total weight of everything that the audience will see on stage is 30 tons. The spectacle is fascinating, breathtaking, transporting everyone to the distant age of the Egyptian world.
The effect would not be so complete if not for the costumes by the renowned costume designer Maurizio Millenotti. It will take a long time to talk about the beauty and historical accuracy of his work. The first thing that distinguishes him from many other costume designers is his love for complex details. For example, just the Pharaoh’s costume for the Triumph scene has a decorated tunic, gold collar, decorated with jewel stones, a white robe, accessorized with a chain with a square-shaped medallion, and all this beauty is crowned with a golden-red color miter (headdress). The makeup arstists’ skill plays a very important role here, because one can not be experimenting with colors here, as the exacting instructions say: soft plum color lips, the lunar gold color eyeshadow, eyebrows highlighted with mascara.
The 315 prop units complete the picture: heraldic shields, arrows with ibis, benches in the animal style with lions’ and swans’ heads. Chairs and couches are upholstered in natural leather or leopard skin, painted in the New Kingdom style (the reign of the most famous pharaohs: reformer Akhenaten, young Tutankhamun and the conqueror Ramses II).
As for the content, everything remains as intended by the author of the libretto Antonio Ghislanzoni. For the historical canvas the composer G. Verdi took the draft of the story written by Egyptologist and screenwriter Auguste Mariette. The «exotic» opera takes place in the reign of the pharaohs, when Egypt was experiencing hostility with Ethiopia. The plot of the opera, in addition to the story of the warring parties, tells the sad story of love of the leader of the Egyptian army Radames and slave girl Aida, the daughter of the Ethiopian king, whose troops have fought the Egyptians. The daughter of the Pharaoh Amneris is also in love with Radames. G. Verdi shows strong characters, the fight of personal feelings and patriotic duty. After all the adversity that the fate has prepared for Radames and Aida, Amneris promises Radames to save him if he agrees to forget Aida. But he remains adamant to her entreaties. After that he is buried alive, but not alone: Aida secretly enters the tomb with him. The action ends in the temple, where Amneris stands over theslab of stone over the dungeon and asks the gods for peace and consolation for her beloved Radames after his death.