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Aida: Verdi, New Theatre Oxford

By Amy Ellis Winter

On Saturday Evening, New Theatre Oxford invited us for an evening filled with drama and passion in Verdi’s Aida, a production by Ellen Kent Opera and Ballet company, one of the top opera producers in the UK who focuses on bringing foreign opera and Eastern European troupes to the UK.

This was most entertaining for me for unexpected reasons. Not only are my friends and I large fans of the opera, but I had previously performed with Ellen Kent Opera and Ballet Company from the ages of 14 to 15 as a dancer in 4 operas - one of which was Aida. Ironically enough, I had never seen it live as an audience member.

I was however, far from disappointed. Aida’s story is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet’s - two people from rival groups, fall in love and eventually die together. Set in Ancient Egypt, Aida is held captive as a slave to Egyptian Princess and the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris. Egyptian Army General Radamès wishes to win Aida’s love by emerging victorious over an attack on Ethiopia, much to the displeasure of Princess Amneris who is also in love with him. Little do the Egyptians know, Aida is daughter of the Ethiopian King and upon his capture by Radamès, he reveals himself as her father.

As Radamès battles between his love for Aida and duty to his country, love ultimately wins and Radamès pleads for the King and Aida to be spared from slaughter. However, in Princess Amneris’ rage of jealousy and heartbreak, the King of Ethiopia is killed, Aida flees and Radamès is sentenced to be buried alive in a tomb. Aida eventually hears of this, returns, and sneaks into the tomb to be buried with Radamès in his arms.

The talent and ability of the main cast was phenomenal, Aida’s high vocal range was quite literally through the roof but it was Princess Amneris’ who stole the show with a mixture of glamorous costume and a complete powerhouse of vocals. The outfits of the main cast were heavily detailed and impressive and the production on the whole was very well put together. The orchestra were not in the pit as usual but could be clearly seen at stall level, which was fantastic as we were immersed in Verdi's music and could watch their musical skill alongside the actors. Furthermore, the stage design fully transported us to Ancient Egypt and it was a place which I would gladly return to.

The cast was comprised on some of the members of the Ukrainian Opera and Ballet Theatre in Kyiv and at the end, the cast sung the Ukrainian national anthem with accompanying flags to remind us of the conflict and sacrifice in Ukraine. Perhaps, much like the war and loss of Aida's Ethiopia that we had just witnessed.


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