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Arizona Opera Presents a Grand and Sweeping Production of Verdi’s Spectacular “Aida”

Verdi’s dramatic masterpiece returns to Arizona Opera after a 13-year absence

Performances are March 3 & 4 in Tucson, March 9-11 in Phoenix

Phoenix, AZ (Feb. 6, 2012) — For its penultimate opera of the 2011-12 season, Arizona Opera is pulling out all the stops for Giuseppe Verdi’s epic 1871 masterpiece Aida.   Set in ancient Egypt, the much-loved Italian opera is packed with everything from massive sets and a grand processional with animals to a classic love triangle and unforgettable melodies (“Celeste Aida,” “Ritorna vincitor”).

Arizona Opera’s production of Aida promises to thrill opera aficionados and newbies alike. “Aida is about both spectacle and great singing,” said Arizona Opera General Director Scott Altman. “We have a top-notch cast assembled for this production.”

Sopranos Lisa Daltirus and Mary Elizabeth Williams are double-cast in the demanding title role of the captive Ethiopian princess. Both Daltirus and Williams return to Arizona Opera after garnering critical acclaim in the company’s 2009 production of Tosca. Tenor Arnold Rawls follows up last season’s great success in Arizona Opera’s production of Turandot with the part of Radames, the Egyptian captain secretly in love with Aida. Mezzo-sopranos Daveda Karanas (an ASU alumna) and Dana Beth Miller share the role of the Egyptian king’s daughter Amneris. Bass-baritone Kevin Short makes his Arizona Opera debut as Aida’s father Amonasro. All singers boast credits with international major opera houses, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera.

In Aida, love and patriotic duty collide, a theme that Verdi often returned to in his many operas. Yet the roots for Aida are far more exotic. In November 1869, Khedive Ismail, the ruler of Egypt, announced plans to open a new opera house in Cairo as part of the celebrations surrounding the opening of the Suez Canal. He asked Verdi to compose an “inaugural hymn” for its opening night, which was planned for November 1870. Verdi declined. But he was enthusiastic when an alternative suggestion was proposed; he would compose an opera based on an ancient Egyptian subject, invented by the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette. With its premiere in Cairo’s opera house in 1871, Aida was a huge smash hit for everyone involved and, within ten years, had been performed in 155 opera houses around the world. Since its first performances, Aida has been associated with ambitious scale and the production values of a Cecil B. DeMille film.

Scenery for Arizona Opera’s production comes from New Orleans Opera. The massive sets, evoking the temples and tombs of ancient Egypt, are a logistical challenge to mount.

“We have 15 stage hands and 20 costumes, wig and makeup personnel, plus another five people to help the onstage patrons,” said Arizona Opera Director of Production Doug Provost. Of the 200 persons on stage for the famous Act II Processional March, at least 50 of them are patrons who have upgraded their tickets to be non-singing participants or supernumeraries in the festivities.

The stage director for Aida is John Hoomes, who directed last season’s production of Verdi’s Otello. “For all the opera’s pomp and grandeur, the show really comes to life if the character relationships are clearly defined, and if the characters become … well … human,” said Hoomes. “One of our goals in this production is to do just that.”  Mark Flint conducts all five performances. Performances are accompanied by English supertitles.

Performances of Aida are March 3 at 7:30 p.m. and March 4 at 2 p.m. at Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Avenue, Tucson. Performances are also March. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 at 2 p.m. at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 North 2nd Street, Phoenix. Ticket prices begin at $25 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets by calling 1.800.982.2787 or visiting online www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are also available through the Arizona Opera Box Office from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. at 602.266.7464 in Phoenix or 520.293.4336 in Tucson or www.azopera.org.

This production is generously co-sponsored by Mary Lou Forier & John E. Wahl and Linda Staubitz in memory of Art Staubitz, Dr. and Mrs. Harold B. Segel, and SRP.

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Arizona Opera is a professional opera company which produces fully-staged opera performances, concerts, in-school touring productions, educational and outreach programs that reach over 55,000 schoolchildren and adults annually. Founded in 1971, Arizona Opera is one of the few companies in the United States to serve multiple cities.

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