|Aida - Celeste indeed!|
The signs were all there. It was more than obvious that with such a gilt-edged cast, a choral mass of singular distinction, an artistic director with a flair for innovation, a seasoned conductor second to none and a superb scenic artist with his fine honed team, this Aida was going places. It just did!
The expectations of one and all were met and how. A full house on both nights echoing with rapturous applause triggered by the brilliant goings on on the spacious stage was a most eloquent testimony to the high level reached and sustained throughout the entire opera. Aida has come to mean Pharaonic proportions in the collective consciousness. If these do not materialize than the production is deemed a damp squid. The challenges facing the Teatru Astra in opting for such an all-time favourite and perhaps the most known opera across the board were daunting indeed. But no one can deny that the challenges were met with the customary zeal, expertise and no holds barred quest for excellence which have become the hallmarks of opera productions at the Teatru Astra.
One may say that Egypt created Verdi and Verdi created Egypt! The fascination which Egypt exerted on the creative dramatic genius that was Verdi could not have yielded happier results. Still Aida's Egypt is Verdi's creation and we are all the richer for it. Through a tormented lover's heart the gleaming treasures of Egypt become mysteriously exposed for all to see and enjoy. The absolutely ravishing score plumbing the depths of human emotions ranging from the singular to the collective, no one excluded from top to bottom (Pharoe to slave), Aida's scope is breathtaking. That is what was evident in the Teatru Astra production. Never have the impressive proportions of the stage been more in evidence than in this monumental production. A magnificent set designed by Enrico Stinchelli sporting majestic columns and the twin symbols of the grandeur of Egypt, Phtah and the papyrus, created a tremendous atmosphere which was complimented by the ebb and flow of the poignant music generated by the Malta Philharmonic orchestra in top form under Joseph Vella.
Indeed the lucky patrons had a brush with sheer greatness. What was particularly impressive was the admirable balance of sound generated on stage. The choice of the principals could not have been a happier one. Robust, beautiful timbers all around coupled by intelligent and penetrating singing from the word go to the final half-whispered strains characterized both performances. As everyone knows, Verdi had a particular aptitude for choral singing. His loving long-standing acquaintance with Palestrina must have had something to do with this! The unique blend of what can be rightly termed choral forces on stage certainly did not fall any short of the extremely high standard of the principals. Patrons at the Teatru Astra have come to expect nothing less than a unique blend of sound between the principals and the Chorus. This time around was not only no exception to the rule but a very high and unequalled point indeed.
It would be only fair and just to observe that the financial support by the Gozo Cultural Support Programme (among others) is really money well spent and a very wise investment which is helping to put Gozo on the international Opera circuit. No one can seriously deny this. It is indeed uncanny how great artistic productions can turn nowhere into somewhere with multiple spinoffs on various levels. The healthy mix of unbounded enthusiasm of the voluntary sector and the public financial support is proving to be a winning formula. It is no secret that were it not for the prudent husbanding of forces available such a production simply would not be financially sustainable. Were it not for the wellspring of the voluntary output (which is highly professional) the cost of such a production as the Teatru Astra Aida would be stratospheric.
Malta would never have had any chance of trumpeting such a success to the high heavens.
Honour to the deserving:
Silvia dalla Benetta (Aida), Devid Cecconi (Amonasro), Carlo Colombara (Ramfis), Sanja Anastasia (Amneris), Antonino Interisano (Radames), Re (Petri Lindroos), Sacerdotessa (Georgina Stalbow), Messaggiero (Frans Mangion).
Maria Frendo, Francesco Costa (Chorus Instructors), Andrew Portelli, Carmel Zammit (Stage Managers), Johnny Micallef, Bradley Xuereb (Stage Construction), Ulduz Ashraf Gandomi (Assistant Director), Antonella Zammit, Giulia Mandruzzato, David Camilleri (Production Assistants), Christian Maggio (Rehearsal Pianist), Sarah Grech, Lucia Piqeuro (Choreography), Joseph Cauchi (Scenography), Andrew Portelli (Assistant Scenographer), Manuel Grima, George Farrugia (Costumes), George Zammit, Juan Vella (Lighting), Ismael Portelli, Alex Magri (Projections), Miriam Attard, George Camilleri (Props/Headwear).
Enrico Stinchelli (Artistic Director)
Joseph Vella (Conductor)
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