The Malta Independent 24 September 2018, Monday

Becoming Aida

Tuesday, 4 September 2018, 11:31 Last update: about 19 days ago

Giuseppe Verdi’s classic opera AIDA will soon be staged by acclaimed Dutch company Opera Spanga, following performances in the Netherlands as part of fellow European Capital of Culture, Leeuwarden-Fryslan 2018. We speak with Soprano MARIBETH DIGGLE, to find out how she feels to be bringing Aida to life on both the Dutch and the Maltese stage

In the world of opera, few works hold such distinction as Giuseppe Verdi's famous masterpiece Aida, with performances of the classic staged repeatedly every year around the globe. For most opera performers, then, Aida holds a very special place in their hearts.

American Soprano Maribeth Diggle is one such performer. "It is a milestone and a privilege to have had the chance to perform and to know Verdi's beloved character Aida. She (and Verdi) have made me understand that there are still (and always will be) young, incredibly strong people in this world, who are able to make and see through hard decisions for the good of others, even in the face of human slavery."

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Although its tale is dark, the themes explored through AIDA remain topical and relevant today, guaranteeing the opera's continued popularity over the 200 years since it was first premiered. Set in Egypt, Aida tells the love story of the Princess Aida and Radamès, the military commander of her enemy, as they face political and social issues such as shame, loyalty and religious conflict, and question the nature of love, war, peace and forgiveness.

It is this multi-faceted quality of Aida that drew Diggle to take on the title role in the upcoming Opera Spanga production. With a repertoire that already includes other powerful female title roles such as Cherubini's Médée, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Cio cio san in Madama Butterfly, and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Diggle's career so far has built on roles that value open communication and creation within the company. "Each production that I have chosen to be a part of has to have these goals at the top of the list. I always felt most satisfied when a director, conductor, composer or company knows who they would like to communicate with, why we continue to use opera as our chosen language, and have stayed open to others influencing this common goal, instead of insisting on a prefabricated interpretation."

Opera Spanga's approach to producing Aida has been similarly open-minded. This new contemporary reworking will utilise multimedia and has taken on an open-air setting both in the Netherlands and in Valletta's Pjazza Teatru Rjal. Director Corina van Eijk has also encouraged the highly-experienced cast to push boundaries with role reversal, and to focus on the realism and emotions behind the story itself. "Working with Opera Spanga has been a pure joy," continues Maribeth. "Thankfully Corina has a good sense of people, so we have been able to create a deep level of intimacy and trust, on and off stage. "I have especially enjoyed my time with my colleagues Tao Tong and Eva Kroon, who offer everything they have as performers during each show, and working with Corina has been full of deep meaning, joy and encouragement that there are people taking good care of the opera world."

Meanwhile, the chance to offer audiences a new operatic experience has added to Diggle's love of contemporary opera. "The freedom and thrill that comes when something has never or seldom been done not only feeds me deepest as an artist, but also offers a new relationship between audience and performer. If one is not sure what one is going to hear or see, this makes for a fresher and more exciting interaction and trust. Maybe more like meeting someone you love for the first time."

Giuseppe Verdi's AIDA will be performed by Opera Spanga at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta on 13 and 15 September 2018. Further information and tickets are available online at www.showshappening.com.

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