Divas and camels descend on Seoul for Verdi’s ‘Aida’

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Divas and camels descend on Seoul for Verdi’s ‘Aida’

Grand operas are in this season, and “The Great Opera Aida” promises to be a spectacular. The three-day run of “Aida” at the Olympic Stadium in Jamsil includes not only a cast of first-class operatic vocalists, but live camels from West Australia, elephants from Thailand and horses from the Singal Equestrian Club.
Most of the cast hails from the Parma Theater in Italy, and the opera will be conducted by Donato Renzetti. The costumes were designed by Rancati, who did the clothing for the film “Spartacus.”
“Aida,” which opens on Sept. 18, is raising the bar for scale, price and animal importation, not just in Korea, but worldwide. Organizers here are trying to transcend previous performances of the work at the Arena di Verona and at Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. A new policy had to be drawn up to import the camels, since this type of animal had never been imported before.
The opera “Turandot” was staged in May, with a reproduction of the Forbidden City. For “Aida” in Korea, CnAKorea, the production team, is recreating the celebrated 1987 staging that took place near Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings. Once again, pyramids will loom in the background of a stage that is 100 meters long (330 feet) and 25 meters deep. Perfect for parading singers ― and camels ― during the opera’s famous Triumphal March.
Tickets start at 30,000 won ($25.50) and run as high as 600,000 won, up from the 500,000 won cap for “Turandot,” a previous record for Korean opera production.
The opera itself was almost not conceived. To commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal, a new opera house had been built in Egypt. The Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pascia, wanted a grand celebration, and asked Verdi to compose something for it. Verdi initially refused, but finally consented in 1870. The result was a lavish production, based on the tragic love story of the young Egyptian warrior Radames and the Ethiopian princess Aida. Aida is captured as a slave for the Egyptian princess Amneris, Radames’s betrothed. Jealousy is aroused all around, while Aida is torn between her love for Radames and her loyalty to her family and country. Such a grand work did not go unrewarded: Verdi went on to win the title of Knight of the Ottoman Empire.

by Joe Yong-hee

For more information, visit the Web site at www.aida2003.co.kr.
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