Aida was originally performed in Egypt with live elephants on stage. Written at the end of Giuseppe Verdi’s middle period in 1871, during which he gained the critics’ acclaim as a composer and drew the watchful eye of the censors, Aida was commissioned by the khedive of Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal. An abridged version of Verdi’s opera about an epic love triangle between Aida, a captured Ethiopian princess, Radames, an Egyptian commander, and Anmeris, an Egyptian princess, will be presented by Opera unMet, “Boston’s innovative opera company.” The production will take place on Friday, February 4th at 8 pm in Jordan Hall and will be performed in Italian and narrated in English.
The cast is a mixture of veterans of the world opera scene as well as local opera singers who have yet to make international names for themselves. Cynthia Miles Gray, the soprano who plays Aida, has performed throughout Europe and Israel as well as worked locally with the Boston Pops and extensively with Opera unMet. She is currently the Choral Director at Berea SDA Church in Dorchester. Marshall Hughes, founder and musical director of Opera unMet, is a tenor playing Radames. He has performed in New England, New York, Europe, and the former Soviet Union as well as Russia, China, and Estonia. Mezzo-soprano Amneris is played by Mauri Wheeler, a local opera performer who works as a Cantor at Saint Mary’s Church in Cambridge and the Presbyterian Church of Needham. Eric Sosman, a bass who plays high-priest Ranphis, has performed in many productions with various opera houses in southeastern New England, including Opera unMet.
Opera unMet seeks to be innovative not just in the way it performs its operas, but in its behavior in the community. The company’s mission is to encourage mutual respect, cooperation, and community among people of different ages and from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds through music. Opera unMet aims to bring opera to audiences that may not have another opportunity to enjoy it. They do this by performing in churches, community centers, schools, and colleges. The company also provides tickets for inner city children to attend performances. For his work, Marshall Hughes recently received the Sojourner Truth Award for Community Service, which “is given each year by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. as a reminder of the endless effort which freedom demands of those who would be free and to recall the fact that slavery comes in many forms: enveloping the spirit as well as the body.”