Never Mind the Elephants

by Keith Clarke

No elephants, but quite possibly naked dancing girls. That was the undercover promise for a new in-the-round production of Aida coming to the Royal Albert Hall in February 2012. And if you just can’t get the elephants these days, it’s clear where you go for tenors. “America is a good place for tenors right now,” said director Stephen Medcalf, announcing the show at an Albert Hall press launch today. Both his Radames come from the USA – Marc Heller and Joseph Wolverton- singing alongside an international cast.

This Aida comes from legendary impresario Raymond Gubbay, whose Madam Butterfly is currently selling out the Albert Hall on its fifth revival, having seen some 300,000 people through the turnstiles over the years.

Unlike Butterfly, which is sung in English, some classy amplification doing it best in the Albert Hall’s bathroom acoustics, Aida will be sung in Italian, giving producers the tricky task of making surtitles visible to 5,000 people sitting in a large oval.

Gubbay said it was exciting to be launching something special at a time of arts cuts. He has famously taken the risk on all his productions, which have not seen a penny of state funding. But he was keen to defend the need for public subsidy. “This is not the answer to the cuts,” he said. “It won’t fix everything else, but it works here.”

Aida will run for 18 performances, with tickets from $35 to $121. It remains to be seen whether the price includes naked dancing girls.

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