This is the story of forbidden love between the Egyptian leader Radames and the beautiful Ethiopian princess Aida. Aida is captured and forced to be a slave to the Pharaoh's daughter, who ... See full summary »




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Cast overview:
Cheryl Studer ...
Luciana D'Intino ...
Yvonne Barclay ...
Dennis O'Neill ...
Robin Leggate ...
Alexandru Agache ...
Robert Lloyd ...
Mark Beesley ...


This is the story of forbidden love between the Egyptian leader Radames and the beautiful Ethiopian princess Aida. Aida is captured and forced to be a slave to the Pharaoh's daughter, who is also in love with Radames. When the Ethiopian enemies headed by Aida's father invade Egypt, Aida is faced with a dilemma - whom should she support, her father or her beloved Radames? Written by Fiona Kelleghan <>

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Flash Gordon the Opera
4 October 2005 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

There are not a great many film versions of Aida, considering that it is such a popular and spectacular opera. There is the notorious 1953 version, starring Sophia Loren, which was largely responsible for the disreputable idea that you could film opera with beautiful people mouthing the words and not-so-beautiful people on the soundtrack. Then there is the so-called Cecile B DeMille version from San Francisco opera in 1981. I have a soft spot for this spectacular production although I feared for the fabric of the theatre whenever Luciano Pavarotti and Margaret Price stood on the same side of the stage. There is also a recent version from Busseto, directed by Zeffirelli, which is worth tracking down because it uses young and beautiful performers who can also sing. Filmed in the Busseto opera house, this version is relatively low on spectacle and even cuts part of the Grand March.

Living in Birmingham, I have to take live performances whenever I get the opportunity. The only production of Aida to come to Birmingham in recent memory was a touring production from Wroclaw in Poland. There was a cast of more than 100 but the demands of this opera are such that, even within such a generous budget, the production could only run to three soldiers and three dancing girls. Throughout the Grand March these six pranced across the stage from right to left then ran around the back of the scenery to reappear on the right to give the impression of an endless procession.

Which brings me to this production of Aida from Covent Garden in 1994. It strongly reminds me of a touring production from an impoverished eastern European state. The sets are practically non-existent, usually just a backcloth. The costumes look like a mishmash from previous productions: soldiers dressed as samurai, Egyptian monks dressed as Buddhists, the king in doublet and hose and the rest of the performers wearing cast-offs from Flash Gordon the Opera. The choreography is risible making the six dancers from Wroclaw seem state of the art.

As Ramades, Dennis O'Neill struggles during "Celeste Aida", which is always a bit of a challenge coming right at the beginning of the opera, but is quite effective thereafter. Cheryl Studer as Aida achieves an effortless grace in "O Patria Mia". The restrained Covent Garden audience do not applaud her because Verdi did not leave a gap for applause. At the Met she would have brought the house down. Lucina D'Intino is uncomfortable with the tessitura of Amneris although she copes well with her long solo in the final act. Most of the lower male roles are better performed with Alexandro Agache as an effective Amonasro and Robert Lloyd as an impressive High Priest. The bass Mark Beesley is literally out of his depth as the Egyptian King and looks uncomfortable in his silly costume.

I like the way Denis O'Neill's wig changes from black to white for the final scene where he is sentenced to be buried alive. I was entranced by this and also by the fact that Cheryl Studer's St Tropez has started to run by the time that she is buried with him. This is a difficult scene to stage but they manage to pull it off in this production. Aida and Ramades have to expire gracefully in the space of about 20 minutes. Often, the burial chamber is so big that you imagine that they could survive a nuclear winter; but in this production the chamber, on a split stage, is convincingly dark and poky with Amneris weeping on the brightly lit stage above. She was not the only one weeping, tears were rolling down my cheeks faster than Cheryl Studer's fake tan.

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