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Phil Willmott

Phelim McDermott launches the news season at English National Opera with his fresh take on the classic, AIDA

Aida - English National Opera Good news for opera fans! It’s been announced that the innovative and inspirational director, Olivier Award-winner Phelim McDermott, will direct a new production of Aida to launch English National Opera’s 2017/18 season.

He’ll be reunited with the creative team who created ENO’s Akhhnaten, winner of the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production, working ENO’s award-winning Chorus and Orchestra and the female-led contemporary circus company Mimbre and puppeteer Basil Twist will join the line up.

Aida is one of the most loved and revived pieces in the “Grand Opera”  tradition. The setting is the aftermath of a war in which the ancient Egyptians have captured and enslaved Aida, a Nubian princess. An Egyptian officer, Radamès, compromises his loyalty to the Pharaoh when he falls in love with her and not his ruler’s daughter Amneris. You won’t be surprised to learn things end tragically!

Packed with triumphal music the story calls for a spectacular staging and if you’ve seen Phantom of the Opera the overblown operatic pastiche with the elephants is a parody of how it’s usually presented.

That’s what usually happens but, take note, on this occasion we’re promised “This will be an Aida of a kind unseen before on the London stage

McDermott says - ‘I’ve never directed something like Aida before, but everyone knows the opera – it is the archetypal operatic love story. It’s a story worthy of the thing that only opera can do, which is to create theatre, music and drama at the same time. For us it’s like a sister production to Akhnaten – you can see that it’s born from the same kind of impulses. I would say, don’t expect to see Ancient Egypt on stage. Do expect to see a wonderful, intimate, moving story.

Here’s the low down on the exceptional cast from the press release.

“Sharing the title role of the tragic Ethiopian princess who must choose between her homeland and her love will be two sopranos whose previous performances as Aida have received wide praise.

Latonia Moore will sing the role from the 28 September to the 27 October and Morenike Fadayomi will take over from the 31 October to the 2 December. Moore has sung the role at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, the Royal Opera House and Sydney Opera House among others, hailed as ‘celestial’ (Bachtrack) and ‘radiant’ (The Guardian). Both sopranos make their ENO debuts with this production.

Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones makes his second appearance for ENO this year as the captain of the guard and lover of Aida, Radamès, after a ‘superb’ (The Sunday Times) appearance in The Dream of Gerontius in July. A much-loved star of many recent ENO productions, he was described as ‘everything you could want’ (The Times) for his last role at the London Coliseum, Cavaradossi in 2016’s Tosca.

Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung makes her company debut as Amneris, Aida’s rival in love. DeYoung is a Grammy Award–winning artist who has previously sung the role for Cincinnati Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Also making her company debut, Dana Beth Miller takes over the role from her from the 31 October to the 2 December.

Rising South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana makes his UK operatic debut as the defeated Ethiopian ruler Amonasro, having received praise in the US for his ‘rich, glowing voice’ (The New York Times). Bass Matthew Best returns to ENO to sing the King after his ‘outstanding’ (Guardian) in 2014’s premiere of Julian Anderson’s Thebans.

British bass Brindley Sherratt returns to ENO as Ramfis. His previous performance as Creon in 2013’s Medea was called ‘outstanding’ by the Financial Times and he makes his first of two appearances at the Coliseum this season before returning for Satyagraha in the spring.

The cast is completed by ENO Harewood Artists Eleanor Dennis and David Webb as the High Priestess and Messenger respectively”

It should be a treat!

Aida - ENO