Centuries only enhance this masterpiece of operatic art

Opera and Ballet Theatre stages Aida, by Giuseppe Verdi, in 19th century style

By Tatiana Pastukhova

The original costumes and sets for Aida were designed by Yevgeny Chemodurov for his staging in Bucharest in 1953. The People’s Artiste of Belarus and Honoured Figure of Arts of Russia, Lithuania and Tajikistan is known as a legend to the Belarusian Bolshoi Theatre and restoring his original creations has been no easy task. Few set sketches remain, so today’s designers have had to read between the lines, using black and white photos to decide what must have inspired Mr. Chemodurov. On enlarging photos, details were uncovered regarding costumes, although the original colours remain a mystery. His original sketch books and drawings have also provided vital information.

The theatre’s First Deputy General Director, Vladimir Rylatko, tells us, “I think audiences are seeing the true designs of Mr. Chemodurov, while the actors have tried to reflect the spirit of the performance, as well as its mood and character.” Despite its large scale, the show is quite compact, able to be performed on any stage worldwide. It is still unknown whether the Belarusian version of Aida will tour abroad. Three casts of actors take part — all outstanding soloists with the theatre.

Director-producer Mikhail Pandzhavidze believes that Mr. Chemodurov’s vision is embodied in Aida while the sets follow the classical style intentionally. “It is not an ‘archive piece’ but a stylisation, with Mr. Chemodurov’s sketches brought to life via modern means. Our performance is not a literal copy; it is a reproduction using artistic license. We’ve simply followed colours and compositions,” notes Mr. Pandzhavidze. In fact, the modern version differs in scale, power and pomposity — as characterised by Mr. Chemodurov’s set designs and the style of grand-opera. “Its peculiar feature is its traditionalism,” the director stresses.

Verdi’s Aida occupies a worthy place in global operatic art. It premiered in Cairo in December 1871 and, since then, has gained huge international recognition. Almost 140 years of staging at the most famous theatres has made it part of opera history, symbolising all that is great and grand in the genre.

Aida occupies a special place for the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre, being a popular performance. It was first staged by the company in 1953 by Belarusian singer Larisa Alexandrovskaya, director Lev Lyubimov and artist Sergey Nikolaev and has remained on the circuit for 55 years.

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