'Aida' to kick off Shanghai Grand Theater's new season

Almost 150 years after it was first performed, Verdi's awe-inspiring piece continues to astonish audiences ─ this time with a new twist.
Ti Gong

Dressed in 1950s-style outfits, a film crew has taken up the corner of the stage while in the center an all-Egyptian cast is performing Verdi’s masterpiece, “Aida.”

Don’t mistake it for a film shooting scene, instead it's part of a new production of Giuseppe Verdi's “Aida” which will kick off Shanghai Grand Theater's new season tomorrow.

As the scenes change back and forth between theater performance and the Cinecittà studio in Rome, modern technologies are mixed with old methods. However, the music, the characters and the theme of love and betrayal stay the same, no matter how the performance is adapted.

Debuted at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House on December 24, 1871, “Aida” is an opera in four acts by Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in ancient Egypt, it tells a tragic love story between a captured Ethiopian princess and an Egyptian military commander.

Nearly 150 years later, Verdi’s awe-inspiring piece continues to astonish audiences as the tragic story of Aida and Ramades unfolds.

“To any director, ‘Aida’ is a challenge,” says Jean-Louis Grinda, director and set designer of the Shanghai version. 

“During the golden age of the 1950s, many classic operas were adapted into Hollywood movies. So why not the other way round this time? That’s why I came up with the idea to bring ‘Aida’ back to the stage of Shanghai through the viewfinder of the camera.”

Ti Gong

Chinese soprano He Hui plays Aida in the newly adapted production.

Chinese soprano He Hui, who plays Aida, says: “Compared with other adaptations, Grinda uses simpler sets and costumes. Some movie scenes are used as the backdrop, without damaging the original version.

“This production offers a mixed experience which helps audiences see the efforts of multiple generations of artists who have kept ‘Aida’ alive to this day.”

He played Aida in the Italian version at the Shanghai Grand Theater’s opening performance in 1998. Since then she has played Aida at many prestigious theaters throughout the world. This will be her 154th performance.

“I still clearly remember playing Aida at the Shanghai Grand Theater back then,” says He. “It was the China premiere, and it was also the first important role for me. I am very excited to play it again at where I started.”

Co-produced by the Shanghai Opera House, this production lifts the curtain on the Shanghai Grand Theater’s 2017-18 season, which is under the theme of “Be Enlightened.”

More than 160 programs will be performed, including big names such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” by the Bolshoi Theater, “Cinderella” by the Mariinsky Theater and “Shoot the Moon” by the Netherlands’ Dans Theater.

Performance details

Date: September 15-17, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 80-880 yuan

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