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Friday, 11 September 2015

VERDI'S AIDA, Sydney Harbour; Opera Australia; Handa Opera; Dr Haruhisa Handa

"In Aida, Verdi masterfully pits the intimate affairs of the heart against the grandeur of the universe: where kingdoms rise and fall and the sands of time grind onwards. There could be no grander setting for such an opera than Sydney Harbour itself, awash with the light of the city and the Sydney Opera House silhouetted against the setting sun".

"Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become a huge part of the cultural landscape, combining all of the things Sydney does best: world-class opera, fine dining, sunsets and spectacle on the harbour's edge. It's a monumental undertaking, with a team of more than 700 people involved in the project before a single note is heard over the harbour".

"The ruling Egyptians have captured ‘Aida’, an Ethiopian princess, and enslaved her. Radames, one of the Pharaoh’s military commanders, has fallen for her and must choose between love and loyalty.
Set against the backdrop of Sydney harbour by night, with the iconic Opera House silhouetted against the sky, this is the biggest show that Sydney’s Handa Opera have ever performed, with over 700 people involved in the project. Both a historical epic and an intimate human tragedy, ‘Aida’ is one of Verdi’s greatest and most widely acclaimed operas".

And the production? I'm afraid  my reaction was much the same as in this brilliant Guardian review by Nancy Groves:

"Over the next two-and-a-half hours, tribe after tribe troop on to the giant platform moored at Mrs Macquaries Point. First come the PVC-clad bikers. Then the Mussolini-era soldiers. The jackal-headed dancers. The extras from The Da Vinci Code. And the Egyptian fancy-dress party: mezzo-soprano Milijana Nikolic is channelling Elizabeth Taylor by way of Kings Cross...Why director Gale Edwards and her design team feel the need to chuck a small arts company’s annual budget at the scene is less clear. Between the camels, the coffins, the gold lamé and a routine worthy of Strictly Come Dancing, no rhinestone is left unturned."

I much preferred the second half. The high spot for me was the moving aria O Patria Mia (a song of what the Greeks call xenitia). Maybe it reminded me of Ethiopia, where I spent five years of my life.

Both Latonia Moore and Milijana Nikolic were excellent in Sydney.

The real star - the sponsor and patron - Dr Haruhisa Handa (the International Foundation for Arts and Culture - IFAC). It was Dr Haruhisa Handa's $3 million donation to Opera Australia for the three-harbour project that convinced Destinations NSW to come on board with a rumoured $6 million contribution (Sydney Morning Herald).

About  O Patria Mia - sung here by Micaela Carosi

No, I wasn't singing...and I wasn't in Sydney for Aida - I saw it at a cinema in England. Not quite the same spectacle or experience. But having spent seven years in Sydney, where I was privileged to see many marvelous opera productions, I can well imagine how impressive the setting must have been.

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