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Aida returns to the Pyramids

Aida returns to the Pyramids
Region: Egypt
Created: Oct 17, 2010, modified: Jan 13, 2012, overall rating: 0.000

October 5-7 and 10 are important dates for the Cairo Opera House, marking the return of Verdi's Aida to the Pyramids area.

The opera Aida, in four acts to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni and based on a scenario written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24 December 1871, conducted by Giovanni Bottesini. The opera had been commissioned by the Khedive Ismail Pasha.

Ever since Aida has been among the most notable operas performed on international stages, cherished especially by audiences in Egypt. In recent Egyptian history, Aida was performed on a yearly basis on the stage of the old Opera House in Cairo until it burned down in 1971, a date which affected not only Verdi's work, but also shook classical music in Egypt.

"The best performance of Aida was in September 1987," recalls Hassan Kami, tenor, former artistic director of the Cairo Opera Company and executive director of Opera Aida Productions. Kami himself has sung the role of Radames in Egypt and internationally 440 times.

It was also in 1987 that Aida was performed at the Pyramids for the first time, and the production met with unprecedented success. After the event, Kami was appointed executive director of all following productions of Aida in Egypt. The opera then moved back indoors and was performed at the new Cairo Opera House.

"Another mega production of Aida was in 1994 at the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor," Kamel says. Three years later, in October 1997, a further performance was organised against the backdrop of the Deir Al-Bahari Temple. However, terrorist attacks on tourists a month later ended opera performances in Luxor, and in 1998 the opera moved to the Pyramids, being performed on a stage built specially for the production behind the Pyramids.

Once again, Aida returned to the Cairo Opera House, where it remained until 2009. This October has been marked by the first performance in a decade of Aida at the Pyramids, this time at the Sound and Light location, with the Pyramids and Sphinx as the backdrop.

"This year, we did not have enough funds to create a mega production, and we depended mainly on Egyptian artists, the Cairo Opera Company and three guest singers. Outdoor stage productions need different audio equipment and different engineers. The Cairo Opera House has very good indoor equipment and technicians. We were going against all the odds and had to deal with many financial and logistical difficulties."

However, in spite of such obstacles, judging by the size of the audience during all four days of the production of Aida, this year has seen hopes that the opera will be re-performed in the Pyramids area, attracting not only music lovers and international artists, but hopefully also regaining the attention of financial supporters.

Ati Metwaly
Arts and Culture Editor, Ahram Online

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