ASO, singers, choirs join together for Verdi’s ‘Aida’ 

click to enlarge ITKIN: Ready for "Aida."
  • ITKIN: Ready for "Aida."

David Itkin has never conducted the opera “Aida.” But with his Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the mass of singers being assembled to swarm the Robinson Center Music Hall stage, he says it’s a concert-style program he can’t wait to lead.

“I’m particularly excited about it,” the ASO’s maestro said. “The cast is truly amazing. I really believe, with the international cast and the groups singing the chorus, that it’s going to be spectacular.”

The cast features soprano Carolyn Grace James in the title role. Tenor Arnold Rawls will sing the part of Radames, mezzo-soprano Eugenie Gruenwald is Amneris and bass Warren Kaplan is the King of Egypt. Also, baritone Philip Kraus, bass Young-Boc Kim, tenor Matt Newman from Conway and soprano Susan Brummel Belcher will perform along with 250 singers from the River City Men’s Choir under David Glaze’s direction; the Harding University Chorus, led by Cliff Ganus, and the Hendrix College Choir, directed by Nancy Fleming.

The four-act opera, with one intermission, will be sung in Italian with English subtitles projected over the stage.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday, April 7, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9. Ticket prices range from $16 to $46 and are available at the symphony’s box office, 666-1761, or at the Robinson box office the day of show.

The program is a joint effort of the Arkansas Arts Council, the ASO and the Maestro’s Circle.

Giuseppe Verdi first staged “Aida” in Cairo in 1871. The grand opera is set in ancient Egypt and tells the story of an enslaved Ethiopian princess who falls in love with an Egyptian soldier, Radames, who also is the love interest of Princess Amneris.

Carolyn Grace James is internationally renowned for her interpretation of many of Mozart’s heroines, performing at the Metropolitan Opera, Cologne Opera, Vienna Volksoper, Santa Fe Opera, Vienna State Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre and with the Schloss Schoenbruen Summer Festival. She has expanded her repertoire in recent years to include the more vocally demanding Verdi soprano heroines. Aida is her most frequently sung Verdi role, and she has performed it at the Met, the Montreal Opera (where she debuted the role), the Philadelphia Opera, and a host of other cities, including more than 20 in Germany. James lives in Cologne, Germany.

Chicago resident Arnold Rawls returns to the Robinson stage, where he performed with the ASO in its concert opera production of “Turandot” two years ago. He recently sang the part of Radames with the Florida Grand Opera and has performed internationally. Eugenie Gruenwald’s work as Amneris has been seen with the San Francisco Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Pacific, Orlando Opera, Opera Columbus, the Theatre du Capitole de Toulouse and Norway’s Opera Bergen. She was the 1990 Enrico Caruso International Voice Competition first-prize winner.

For more information, visit www.arkansassymphony.org on the Internet or call 666-1761.


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