Rochelle Bard was "Aida" and Arnold Rawls was "Radames" in Washington Opera Society's concert opera at the Embassy of Egypt/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Lisa Chavez, "Amneris," and Jeremy Harr, "Ramphis" in Washington Opera Society's concert opera, Aida, at the Embassy of Egypt/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Rochelle Bard, "Aida," with Kevin Short, "Amonasro," in Washington Opera Society's concert opera at the Embassy of Egypt/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Aida chorus played a critical role in Washington Opera Society's magnificent concert opera at the Embassy of Egypt/Photo by Patricia Leslie
H.E. Yasser Reda, the ambassador from the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United States, welcomed guests to Washington Opera Society's concert opera, Aida, at the Embassy of Egypt/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The buffet dinner provided by the Embassy of Egypt preceded Washington Opera Society's concert opera, Aida, at the Embassy /Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Embassy of Egypt was the venue for dinner and Aida, sponsored by the Washington Opera Society/Photo by Patricia Leslie
If there were a better setting in Washington for a presentation of the 150th anniversary of the commissioning of the opera Aida than the Embassy of Egypt, prithee, where would that be?
Lucky opera lovers recently converged on the Embassy for the Washington Opera Society's Aida and a sumptuous Egyptian dinner provided by the embassy chef and staff before the really big show.
Giuseppi Verdi wrote Aida for the grand celebration of the opening of Khedivial Opera House in Cairo in 1869* and since its premiere, Aida has been sung thousands (millions?) of times around the world, including more than 1,000 times at New York’s Metropolitan Opera after its first performance there in 1886.
On its website the Embassy says the venue and Egyptian dinner were gifts to the Embassy's "dear guests who came to enjoy the masterpiece of Italy’s great composer Giuseppe Verdi," and we, the guests, were indeed grateful to Ambassador H.E. Yasser Reda, his wife, Nahla Reda, the embassy staff, and the Egyptian government for a night to remember.
Rochelle Bard, Arnold Rawls, Lisa Chavez, and Kevin Short, sang the title roles, all exceptionally talented in every way, but it was Mr. Rawls who, in the second act, practically stole the show, not only with his commanding voice, but his jacket of many colors and his antics to seize the moment(s).
The other soloists, Jeremy Harr, Christian Simmons, Adia Evans-Ledon, and Michael Butler, were equally as impressive.
The 25-member chorus played a powerful role in brief interludes, never dominating the principals but adding welcome background and depth.
Julien Benichou conducted the orchestra of 29 musicians, and the Opera Society's artistic director, Scott Beard, served as humorous narrator, bedecked in different Egyptian clothing embellishments every time he came out to introduce the next act.
Next up on the Opera Society's calendar is the Society's Director's Garden Party on August 24 ("back by popular demand") followed by Verdi's II Trovatore ("rarely done in Washington") on September 28 with dinner. (Venue: tbd)
*Technical reasons, namely the Franco-Prussian War, blocked Aida's premiere at the Khedivial Opera House until 1871.