The Playhouse

Edinburgh

31st March & 1st April

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Last weekend I had the immeasurable delight of catching two of Ellen Kent’s 2017 operas. Nabucco & Aida, both by Verdi. This composer has a special place in Ellen’s heart, & handling Nabucco especially is always an emotional experience for her, having been the first opera she ever produced. This was Friday’s opera, & seeing as my two daughters (ages 7 & 9) had invited their pals for a sleepover – I mused upon introducing them to the opera while they were under my wings, so to speak. So gaining permission from the other poems, we dressed accordingly & all went to the opera.

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Nabucco is an Italian-language opera composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. In essence, Nabucco is a collection of Old Testament tales which follow the adventures oof teh Jews as they are persecuted by King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar II). It is globally famous for the epic, cinematic, hauntingly melodic Va Pensiero – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – & Ellen Kent’s inescapable penchant & reputation for handling such potentially hot potatoes with professional & entertaining creativity was proven yet again. My girls simply adored the magic of the moment. ‘Mother, do they sing all the way through?‘ asked my seven year old, but then returned the gaze mesmerised to the stage. Enraptured by the spectacular visual feast before them – including a real horse & the startling burning down of Solomon’s temple – French soprano Olga Perrier ‘s brilliant Abigaille, Moldovan baritone Iurie Gisca’s moody Nabucco & the orchestra’s sublime emotions, four of us fell in love with the opera that night, while the other – myself – could not wait until the morrow.

For Saturday night  I had a few spritzers & took the taxi to the top of Leith Walk in the company of a good ladyfriend of mine, settling down with her in a nigh-full Playhouse, for my second slice of Ellen Kent’s take on Verdi. I must admit he is one of my personal favorites, & especially Aida – there is something about ancient & grandiose Egypt which is perfect for operatic visuals & song. Opera & the Pyramids, two of the highest inventions of humanity. Tonight also saw the return of the horse from Nabucco, this time for Triumphal March scene with Giorgio Meladze’s sensational tenor, Radames whose ‘Celeste Aida’ was delivered impeccably.
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Aida & Amneris

Meladze was perfectly complemented  by international soprano Ecaterina Danu’s, Aida, and iza Kadelnik’s mezzo-soprano, Amneris.  Iurie Gisca was also back as the King of Ethiopia & one really feels that he prefers to play this part, he poured in passion & relish which were perhaps not as prominent on Friday’s performance. The stage was dominated by the King’s Palace and Temple of Isis, which were lit with grace & sophistication by Valeriu Cucarschi. An excellent setting for some excellent opera. Aida is a much more bubbly piece than Nabucco, which is strange seeing as the two operas were written in Verdi’s ebullient youth & reflective age. But that is why I love Aida, it is sensational on all fronts & Ellen delivers its imperial majesty with her own kind of majesty. Yes, for Ellen Kent – & for us our grateful acolytes – Aida totally fits.
Reviewer : Emily Beeson Bullen
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