Opera Australia Blog

What the critics said: Aida on Sydney Harbour

Aida on Sydney Harbour on opening night. Photo by Jamie Williams.

Aida on Sydney Harbour on opening night. Photo by Jamie Williams.

“The most spectacular harbourside production so far”

The Australian (paywall)

Photo by Hamilton Lund

Photo by Hamilton Lund

A bold, sumptous vision … Aida is a work that begs for a large canvas and Edwards has filled it with here with gestures of swirling brilliance and boldness.”

Sydney Morning Herald

Milijana NIkolic as Amneris and Latonia Moore as Aida in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - Aida. Photo by Prudence Upton.

Milijana NIkolic as Amneris and Latonia Moore as Aida in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour – Aida. Photo by Prudence Upton.

“Edwards moves the singers and ensemble around the stage in such a way that emphasises their shifting relationships, and brings clarity to the central conflict — between protecting love and protecting a culture and a community in a world at war. She uses movement and Mark Thompson’s extraordinary designs to create a visual language for the storytelling…”

Daily Review

Photo: Hamilton Lund

Photo: Hamilton Lund

“The American soprano Latonia Moore is a superb Aida, her sumptuous voice rising to nearly every challenge and riding over orchestra and chorus clearly without assistance from the sound engineers. A proper Verdi soprano, she has the fearless attack of a Callas…”


Walter Fraccaro (Radames) in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour_ Aida. 2015. Photo Prudence Upton 182

“[Director] Gale Edwards’ political and creative acumen in dreaming up a Triumphal March to end all triumphal marches should become legend.”

Stage Noise

15 Responses to “What the critics said: Aida on Sydney Harbour”

  1. F L Davison

    Unfortunately I found the sound system so bad that it ruined the entire production for me. It was so bad but so easily corrected that it will be my last Opera on the harbour.

    • Jane Lochrin

      Me too; I was very disappointed. Opera without natural voices becomes a silly stage musical, and I don’t go to musicals. Surely the sound engineering could be better than this.

      Reviews have varied, so I am wondering whether the sound is optimised for some voices and not coping well with others, as there are two pairs of singers for the main roles. But I think that might be searching for excuses, and it’s just a bad production. I pity those who paid full price, as I had a premium seat for a last-minute price.

  2. Robert Thomson

    I have seen all 4 ‘operas on the harbour’ and this is definitely the biggest spectacle yet, and the least emotionally engaging. Weird casting, bad amplification, and random over design mean we never really care about the lovers caught in their desperate romantic triangle. I reckon it is (surprisingly) the quiet, intimate moments that are most effective in this grand outdoor venue, and there weren’t any in this Aida. The lovers often yell at each other across big distances and their is no perspective from the hundreds of loud speakers to tell us who is singing to whom and where. You can’t help feeling the company has lost its way a bit with this effort. This newsletter with a dull video of uninterested ‘star guests’ given free tickets to opening night is depressing. I wish OA would spend less on marketing and more on getting the show right for those ordinary opera goers who actually pay for their tickets, and expect more.

    • Agnes Ji

      I couldn’t agree more.
      It’s an EVENT (Gale Edwards) ——a visual feast rather than an evocative art form.

    • Graham Miller

      I could not agree more with Robert Thomson. I gave my views in no uncertain manner to Opera Australia. I said the worst thing about opening night was that it was TOO DAMNED LOUD, only to be told that the sound engineer said the sound level did not breach the Envirormental Protection Act – which, of course, is all about not disturbing people in the surrounding areas, not the audience at the event. I responded by asking to be removed from the list of subscribers to Opera Australia. Apparently there are no laws protecting the ears of audiences. Let the buyer beware!

  3. monica duggan

    I too have been to opening night of all four operas. I found this one the most disappointing. The sound system just didn’t work. It was so loud that it was impossible to hear the actual voices of the singers. I also found the costumes a bit much. As one of the newspapers also said”Vegas show girls, army troopers, Marie Antoinette type costumes. All a little too much. She was an Ethiopian princess/slave and the other an Egyptian one. Just too much glitz—Aida doesn’t need it….

    • Graham Miller

      Monica, I agree entirely. I enjoyed Carmen thoroughly; I loved Madam Butterfly – saw it 4 times. I did not enjoy Aida at all. I hated Faust at the Opera House, and I survived Aida with foam plastic earplugs in my ears. My complaint to Customer Service about the loudness is being disregarded, so I asked to be removed from the list of subscribers.

  4. Marjorie Henzell

    We attended the performance on 29/3/15. I had previously seen the Graeme Murphy production in Melbourne but was disappointed with the second act. This production allowed the ‘more intimate’ second half to project itself in a more satisfying way from my perspective. Opera on the Harbour is about spectacle and needs to project itself. There were some sound glitches – hopefully these will be sorted out. I loved the cast. This is our third Handa and I am glad I decided to see this production of Aida as it has given me a better appreciation of this important work of Verdi.

  5. Anne Laisk

    Unfortunately, the weather conditions on the night I attended (Saturday 4th April) were so bad that it was impossible to appreciate any aspect of the performance. My comments are therefore solely about Opera Australia’s “wet weather policy”, which evidently means that, rather than cancel a performance, Opera Australia considers it reasonable for patrons and artists to endure, for hours, exposure to unceasing heavy rain. We observed people departing from the outset, and my friends and I left at interval, along with just about everybody else, as far as I could see. Despite coming dressed in wet weather gear (which, as it turned out, was not designed for hours of exposure to an onslaught of torrential rain) we were all completely drenched, through every layer of clothing by the time we left. We felt very sorry for the performers, who made a brave effort to carry on in these terrible conditions. It was certainly a novel, if pathetic, experience to see “Ancient Egyptians” holding umbrellas, draped in flapping rain capes, and dragging rain-soaked garments around the stage. I have enjoyed previous Opera on the Harbour performances in good weather, but this wet weather disaster has really put me off any future events of this nature. What annoys me most is Opera Australia’s disrespectful and contemptuous treatment of both its artists and audience. I fail to understand how the experience we received in return for our very expensive tickets could match the reasonable expectations of any opera-goer. The conditions were such that it was impossible to see the performance through in its entirety, let alone gain a modicum of enjoyment from this thoroughly miserable night.

    • Graham Fredericks

      I fully agree with Anne’s comments. My wife and I were also patrons of the Saturday 4 April performance. From rain sodden food to rain sodden seats, the evening was in short, miserable. I tried to focus on what was a spectacular set with a great cast, wonderful voices and dancers. But I could not find enjoyment. We left at interval, which given the remarkable efforts of the performers and the cost of the tickets, was an immense disappointment. With scheduled rest days I would have thought that a cancellation policy was easily applicable. I certainly won’t be risking any future purchase for Opera on the harbour performances while the current weather policy is in force.

  6. Maureen Allan

    I attended Aida on Saturday 4 April and expected the performance to be cancelled. It was very wet and I left at interval, as did many other people. I fully expected the performers to stop and walk off, it was so wet. I wore sturdy walking shoes which were full of water by interval and I was soaked through my rain jacket and all layers of clothing. Being someone who wears spectacles, it was a challenge to see the performance through the rain on my lenses. I was astonished that the performers were expected to perform under such conditions. I have enjoyed the previous outdoor performances, but after this experience, it’s too much of a risk to purchase tickets and then be expected to endure such unpleasant conditions.

  7. Jane Lochrin

    Further to Robert Tomson and Monica Duggan, I can only add that even Darlinghurst’s drag shows have never seen so much glitz in one place, which had the effect of downplaying the drama inherent in the Aida story. It’s such an opportunity to go all out for grandeur, so why throw that away on cheap stunts?

    I understand the fun analogies between the Ethiopian army and modern guerrillas, but the pastiche of many such interpretations in the production just seemed to be trying much too hard, and in the process subjugated the grand themes of royalty, nobility, love and loyalty with its fairground mentality. I admit it’s an appealing concept, but this production just didn’t pull it off. And all that glitz sucked the life out of any processional sumptuousness that survived interpretation.

    I feel a little sad for the singers, who gave it their all and produced some brilliant notes despite the set and costumes. But sadly, those moments are isolated by the intrusion of such a mass of incoherent visual clutter.

  8. Werner Nierhoff

    We attended the Thursday 02 April performance which suffered from light rain for only around 20 mins or so – bearable. The quality of the singing was in our view very mixed and the costumes were largely unsuited for a Grand Opera such as this one. The purpose, or impact, of the hydraulically operated ‘arch’ escapes me entirely.
    We have seen all 4 productions to date but this one did not really ‘grip’ us, did not drew us in as the previous ones.
    The strange outfits made me think that OA should consider staging a Light Opera (Operette ) which might be better suited to an outdoor venue.

  9. Sydney – Still Raining | D A N I C A

    […] Yes – it rained or drizzled through the most of first act including a show-stopping downpour half way through that caused a fast exit by the entire cast right as a big dance number was starting. When the rain more or less stopped about 15 minutes later, the performance resumed with some of the lead singers and chorus members coming back on stage wearing ponchos and carrying umbrellas! A night to remember, but perhaps not for any of the reasons I had originally expected. […]


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