As an opera lover who also happens to have a keen interest in ancient Egypt, to say that I was excited at the thought of seeing Aida for the first time is a massive understatement. As an added bonus, the show, which was produced by the renowned producer Ellen Kent, was staged by Opera and Ballet International, well known for their exciting interpretation and fantastic performances. In a packed auditorium my own mood seemed to be shared by the rest of the audience as the curtain rose and we were transported to ancient Egypt, the Land of the Pharaohs and a story of love, intrigue and divided loyalties.

With Egypt about to commence battle with Ethiopia, Radames longs to be asked to lead the Egyptian forces. Although the honour of his country is within his heart, his yearning for glory is also inspired by his love for Aida, the slave to the King’s daughter Amneris. Amneris is deeply in love with Radames but suspects that his affections favour Aida. Aida loves Radames but is thrown into conflict when it is announced that he is to lead the Egyptian army against Ethiopia and its King, Amonasro, who just happens to be her father.

With Radames away with his army, Amneris decides to check out her suspicions and tells Aida that he is dead. Aida’s response to this news confirms her suspicions and leaves her hell bent on revenge. When Radames returns from battle in triumph, Aida is at first delighted but then shocked as the Ethiopian prisoners are led in and she realises that her father is one of his prisoners. Amonasro pleads for mercy for his people but Amneris and the high priests demand their death. However, after Radames pleads for the prisoners to be freed, the King relents, sets them free and rewards his lieutenant with his daughter’s hand in marriage.

On the banks of the Nile, on the eve of the wedding, Aida waits for a secret liaison with Radames. As she waits her father arrives and, in a plan to thwart them, forces his daughter to trick her lover into revealing the army’s intentions. Amneris, who was hiding in the temple, overhears this. Amonasro tries to murder her but is prevented by Radames who then surrenders to the High Priests as Amonasro and Aida flee.

Just before Radames’ trial begins, Amneris speaks to him. She is determined to save him from his certain fate of death and tells him that Aida has been killed. Despite being offered the opportunity to avoid death by allegiance to Amneris, Radames, who is distraught at this tragic news, pledges his eternal love for Aida and awaits his fate.

The trial ends and Radames’ fate is announced. He is to be buried alive beneath the altar of the ‘Angry God’ Vulcan.  The sarcophagus is sealed and Radames is sitting awaiting death when Aida, having hidden in the vault earlier, determined that he shall not die alone, appears and they embrace. As the priests chant, Amneris pleads for Radames’ soul. The opera ends with Aida and Radames locked in each other’s arms awaiting death.

Ancient Egypt is brought to life in one of the greatest pieces of music Giuseppe Verdi wrote with the well-known arias such as “Celeste Aida” “Ritorna Vincito” and the great chorus piece “The Triumphal March” which also featured a spectacular Fire Spinner.

Starring soprano Ecaterina Danu as Aida and international tenor Giorgio Meladze as Radames in faultless performances, a stunning musical score, and sets costumes which were lavish and authentic, I can honestly say that this was the best operatic production I have ever attended – it was perfection.

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