Ellen Kent delivers a Verdi good opera

I first fell under the spell of Verdi's Aida in Verona in a Roman amphitheatre.

Monday, 14th November 2016, 12:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:50 pm
Aida and Radames
Aida and Radames

Aida – Opera and Ballet 
Grand Theatre Blackpool

I first fell under the spell of Verdi’s Aida in Verona in a Roman amphitheatre.

Heavy clouds threatened rain yet parted long enough for the Moon to guide star crossed lovers to their death.

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I cried then. I cried again as memories and magic unfolding before me took hold anew. The Arena di Verona is a tough act to follow. We have an Opera House but the Grand Theatre is a far more intimate and arguably better setting for opera even if it can make a triumphal march look like a gala procession.

Producer Ellen Kent can pack the big city theatres, arena and stadia, yet stays loyal to a theatre which featured her new kids from the Bloc, shortly after another Curtain went down, back in the 80s.

She’s still on tour – after a break left fans reeling. Her singers now notch up the superlatives. Her operas win awards. OK, so Blackpool got a couple of stuffed parrots in one scene instead of the black stallion Liverpool and Manchester will get in spring but wild horses don’t drag us to Ellen’s operas, her reputation does.

And while the Grand’s stage looked crowded at 50 plus for the Grand March what a night at the opera Ellen’s Opera & Ballet International provided – particularly with fast rising soprano Ecaterina Danu as Aida, the undoubted star.

This was three hours of opulence on a grand scale, ebony jackal god Anubis standing vigil over Tutankhamen replicas throughout. Cascades of gold fell, drifting like spindrift hours later; fire dancers delighted, but the night belonged to some fine singers.

Verdi’s grandest opera got the Vegas of the North treatment, the Grand a worthy setting for an opera created as spectacle to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.

Vocally the raw emotional intensity held the orchestra at bay for the big arias. Even with a heavenly harpist tugging at the heart strings this is not, quite, a celestial Aida but it left me starry eyed and wiping tears away.

The greatest tragedy of this opera is – it was only here for one night. Book Ellen’s next treat, Puccini’s La Boheme, in February.

Jacqui Morley