Verdi’s opera Aida to air on Sky

Sky Arts 1 is to collaborate with Raymond Gubbay and the Royal Albert Hall to broadcast their production of Verdi’s operatic masterpiece Aida starring Claire Rutter and Joseph Wolverton.

Sky Arts 1 will dedicate its Friday night schedule to broadcast an exclusive television version of the spectacular production. Aida Live is part of Sky Arts commitment to become even bigger and bolder, with a range of groundbreaking new programmes, innovations and projects for 2012, the broadcaster states.

“This is an extraordinary production and we’re delighted to clear our schedules on Sky Arts 1 for the evening to run it in its entirety,” comments James Hunt, Director of Sky Arts. “With our new channel position and greater investments across all the arts, we are delighted to be able bring the very best and most exciting arts events to Sky Arts customers. With Raymond Gubbay at the helm with his award-wining cast, this promises to be a dramatic and unique operatic experience.”

The epic work explores the devastating consequences of a classic love triangle between Aida, the Ethiopian slave girl, the King’s daughter, Amneris, and Captain of the Guard, Radames. Culminating with the final entombment as the opera draws to its tragic close; this intense drama gave Verdi the perfect opportunity to compose some of his most poignant arias and powerful music. Aida received its world premiere in 1871, the same year that Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall as a charity to support the Arts and Sciences.

“The Royal Albert Hall is exceptionally proud of our part in creating this new production of Aida in collaboration with Raymond Gubbay. We are delighted to be able to partner with Sky Arts to ensure that our new production of Verdi’s wonderful opera, set in the ruins of ancient Egypt and brought to life in the magical setting of the Hall, will be seen live and in HD for the first time by so many unable to attend a performance on the world’s most famous stage. To be able to follow the success of the Met Season already shown on Sky Arts, in our case as a charity with no public funding and no permanent opera company, is a great honour.” Says Jasper Hope, Royal Albert Hall Chief Operating Officer.

For the Sky Arts live broadcast, English soprano Claire Rutter will play the lead role of the slave girl Aida and American tenor Joseph Wolverton will play Radames. The production will be presented by Jamie Crick and Suzy Klien. The cast will be directed by Stephen Medcalf with designs by Isabella Bywater. Andrew Greenwood will conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with lighting design by Andrew Bridge and sound design by Bobby Aitken. The opera will be sung in Italian and it will be broadcast live with English subtitles.

It isn’t the first time commercial television has broadcast opera in primetime, back in the 1960s Lord Lew Grade – boss of ATV Network – pioneered primetime opera when an evening on ITV was given over to a live broadcast of Tosca from La Scala starring Maria Callas. Such was the controversy over opera on ITV by other regional bosses Lew had to find the advertisers himself to back the production.

Aida Live will broadcast on Friday 9th March at 7.30pm on Sky Arts 1 HD