Jealousy, revenge, hopeless romance and a breath-taking wall of fire bring epic operas Aida and La Boheme to life in award-winning opera producer Ellen Kent’s new tour.
Pyrotechnic displays and lighting effects help bring Ellen’s love of large scale productions to the Sunderland Empire stage, complete with stunning scenery depicting the splendour and mystery of ancient Egypt.
Ellen said: “I feel I can indulge myself in these operas. I try my best to give the audience the feeling of something epic.”
The celebrated Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, with international guest soloists, visit The Empire in Sunderland on November 5 (La Boheme) and November 6 (Aida).
Ellen’s production of Aida includes temple dancers, cages of exotic birds and parrots, ballet sequences, beautiful pillared sets with intricate tomb paintings, Bedouin dancers, a bathing scene and the ceremonial march with a pyrotechnic display where a wall of fire extends across the stage in a massive burst of flames. About 40 local dancers, children and adults, join the 80-strong cast as slaves and soldiers on stage.
The tale focusses on Ethiopian princess Aida, who is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. Military commander Radames falls in love with Aida and struggles between his feeling for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris also loves Radames and they are due to be wed, although Radames still yearns for Aida, who persuades him to flee into the desert with her. But Radames is found out and surrenders, condemned to be entombed alive. As he is sealed into the vault, he discovers Aida has hidden herself there so they can be together in death.
Ellen said: “Basically, it’s the big one. The biggest, most spectacular opera. In my opinion, it’s the best score Verdi ever wrote. It’s exotic and interesting and the music is simply spectacular.
“Even now, it’s my ambition to stage Aida on the banks of the Nile with a cast of thousands.”
Meanwhile, La Boheme, based on Henri Murger’s novel Scenes de la vie de boheme, focuses on the love between seamstress Mimi and poet Rodolfo. After falling in love instantly, Rodolfo later leaves Mimi due to her flirtatious behaviour, although he wracked by guilt since their life together has probably worsened Mimi’s delicate constitution. In true tragic opera fashion, the pair reunite briefly at the end before Mimi dies.
Ellen said: “The scene when Mimi and Rodolfo meet and she sings They Call Me Mimi always makes me cry. It’s a lovely piece of music. I try to do opera that the audience can emotionally connect with, not just on a musical level but with the personal drama happening on the stage.”
Each show features children from stage schools in the area and La Boheme includes a local dog and a brass band.
The tour features celebrated international soloists sopranos Elena Dee and Ecaterina Danu, and tenors Sorin Lupu and Nicolae Busuioc.