3500 Year-Old Love Story
Verdi's Opera Aida was performed at Luxor in due time on November 26, 1994, thanks to the concerted efforts that rendered it a great outdoor hit.
All foreigners and Egyptians who attended the performance hailed the effort exerted, especially the construction of the bridge which linked the east and the west banks of the River Nile. The 600-metre long bridge was built by the Egyptian Armed Forces to transport spectators to and from the performance. A red carpet was laid along the bridge, decorated with gold lotus flowers.
Opera Aida is based on a story written by Egyptologist August Mariette, inspired by Pharaonic history at its height. The story is about a victorious Egyptian Pharaonic officer, Radamis. He falls in love with his captive Aida who tempts him to reveal to her his secret military plans. Pharaoh Ramses knows about their secret and sentences Radamis to prison in a cellar till death. Aida herself hides in the cellar to face death with her lover.
Choosing Hatshepsut's Temple as the location for the Opera was not haphazard, as the Temple enhanced the Pharaonic theme. But director Vittorio Rossi didn't make use of the Temple in the background. Rossi expressed his own vision, saying: " I present in this performance history not monuments."
The set was designed by Dutch designer Peter Van Der Floot who based it on mobile wood constructions, so as to facilitate rapid scene changes.
The most effective scene was when the stage opened and the dungeon arose from the depths revealing the caged prisoners. This forms the dramatic backdrop when Aida recognizes her imprisoned relatives.
Performers Thrilled The performance included a modern dance show by the Cairo Ballet Opera Group portraying the victorious Pharaonic celebrations.
Wilhelmina Fernandez who played "Aida" on the opening night expressed her happiness to perform, at the spectacular monuments, especially as Egypt was the first country where Aida was presented. "Aida is suited to me - my color helps me to play the character without make up", Fernandez said. Susan Porta who played the princess who loved Radamis "Amneris" said on the second night that she had played the character many times before, but this time was completely different. "When we went on stage, sometimes we would wait a few minutes for the orchestra to start, that was when I looked up to the sky and stars. They and the Temple were fantastic and inspired my performance", she said.
A large number of foreign guests including the wife of Austrian President Thomas Klestil attended. She praised the success of the performance.
Among the spectators were a German couple who came to Luxor, especially to attend the Opera. They hailed the performance, adding there was easy access to the location. "I was wondering about the bridge that was built. It must have been very expensive to build the bridge for one opera", said the German wife, "undoubtedly this operatic performance will bring positive returns for tourism here." She also hoped that the number of performance nights would be increased, so as to be available to a large number of people.
A French spectator said she attended the show as a part of her week-long visit to Egypt. She said that she had never seen Aida before, noting that decor was very beautiful and was in fascinating harmony with the Temple.
An English man and his wife were in Egypt for two days. They accidentally heard about the Opera from friends. The wife said there was insufficient publicity for the performance and she criticized director Vittorio Rossi because he didn't incorporate the Hatshepsut Temple into the set. She said she had watched Aida three times before, but this time was different because of its scenic location, with the mountain overlooking the stage.