Aida – Verdi – Arena di Verona Italy
For over 100 years the Arena in Verona has formally hosted opera, with Aida being at the forefront of the entertainment on show. The huge Verona Arena, which is a first century Roman amphitheatre, is at the centre of activities in this old medieval town. The Arena originally hosted 30,000 people every night during the summer but, even in Italy, health and safety gradually reduced this sum to 25,000, 20,000 and today 15,000 maximum capacity.
Aida has been performed here more often than any other opera and is usually a great spectacle. Indeed the performance on 18 August did not disappoint. No longer the Zeffirelli production as the new Director was the 95 year old Gianfranco de Bosio with the original 1913 production itself appearing no less lavish than Zeffirelli’s outlandish visual effects that delighted audiences for years. This production had all the razzamatazz and huge numbers of people and horses that one would expect in this magnificent outdoor arena. Nothing was spared. Perhaps the only oddity that seemed really unacceptable today was the ‘blacking up’ of some of the singers and the ‘Ethiopian’ children. This is in today’s age out of character and unnecessary.
The musical events of the evening were controlled by the Italian Conductor, Francesco Ivan Ciampa. His masterly control of the Orchestra and coordination with the singers was evident throughout the evening. The cast, consisting of the Amneris of Violeta Urmana, the Aida of Maria Jose Siri, the Radames of Martin Muehle, the Ramfis of Gianluca Breda and the Amonasro of Mario Cassi, undoubtedly appreciated this integrated approach by the Conductor. Little fault could be found with the cast, all of whom performed well.
At the front of the stage there were five or six starfishes representing vocal enhancement for the singers. This enhancement was introduced in 2013 and in no way detracted from the overall performance.
In typical Arena fashion the audience enjoyed another great Aida, although it was surprising that the Arena was not full, perhaps at 70% of capacity, which was a shame.