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Opera Carolina leads off season with ‘Aida’

By Michael J. Solender
Correspondent

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  • ‘Aida’

    Opera Carolina kicks off its 2013-14 season with Verdi’s “Aida.”

    When: 8 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 Oct. 24, 2 p.m. Oct. 27.

    Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.

    Tickets: $15-$144.

    Details: www.operacarolina.org, www.carolinatix.org; 704-372-1000.



In recent years, Giuseppe Verdi has never strayed far from Opera Carolina’s stage.

“Aida,” one of his most beloved operas, headlines the opening of Opera Carolina’s 65th season, with the theme “The architects of love,” three composers known for their romantic operas. The 2013-2014 season also features Giacomo Puccini’s “Il Trittico” and “The Flying Dutchman” by Richard Wagner.

Through Verdi, Charlotte has experienced some of general director James Meena’s strongest performances with his company. Failing to appear in last year’s programming, the popular composer’s appearance string of three consecutive seasons was broken after “Othello,” “La Traviata” and “Il Trovatore” were staged from 2009 to 2011.

Based on a recent taste of “Aida” where soprano Othalie Graham gave an exquisite performance of “Ritorna vincitor” at Opera Carolina’s ensemble performance of “Arts to Poetry to Music” last month, audiences should prepare to be dazzled. Graham’s chops as a dramatic soprano were in evidence and she showed why she has won awards in a number of prestigious competitions.

Graham returns to the stage as Aida, where she will be flanked by Russian-born Metropolitan Opera star mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura as Amneris, La Scala leading tenor Antonello Palombi as Radames, Metropolitan Opera baritone Mark Rucker as Amonasro and Beijing Opera bass Sun Yu as The King. Sun also performed at “Arts to Poetry to Music.”

“‘Aida’ is the perfect opera for both first-time operagoers and long-standing lovers of the art form, as it has it all,” Graham said in a recent interview. “It is very straightforward and right in front of you. Many operagoers find they don’t even need the supertitles; the staging is so dramatic with nothing hidden. This opera has love and betrayal, a wonderful score, fantastic costuming, a huge chorus and balletic dancing; it really captures the audience’s attention.”

Meena and Graham worked together in 2011 in Arizona on Puccini’s “Turandot” and will also have the experience of two full Aida productions with the same cast under their belt when they open in Charlotte. “Aida” is being co-produced by the Toledo Opera. It is the first of three such years co-producing performances with Toledo as a way to share expenses, Meena said.

The four-act production tells the story of a love triangle among an Ethiopian princess, Aida, held captive by the Egyptians, Rademes, one of her captors who is as smitten with her as she is with him, and Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian King who loves Rademes. The opera underscores the fragility of life and the extremes taken by those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their love.

Lending some local flavor to the international cast are 40 members of the Johnson C. Smith University choir to Opera Carolina’s chorus.

“This opera is special because what you see here is such a genuine love between Aida and Rademes,” said Graham. “I can see from the stage how audiences react to her, we connect, and it’s wonderful.”

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