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Set against the magnificent backdrop of Lake Constance, every production at the Bregenz Festival faces strong natural competitors. But with this first-ever production of Verdi’s “Aida” (in an abridged version) on the lakeside stage, it is easy to overlook the beauty of the surrounding nature. Stage director Graham Vick and set designer Paul Brown conjure up an “open-air spectacle of superlatives” (Die Zeit) that throws a bridge between ancient Egypt and today’s U.S.

The stage effects are stunning: ruins of the Statue of Liberty pieced together with the help of giant cranes, boats carrying priestesses and prisoners – parts of the opera even take place in the lake itself! And in the Grand March – one of the most famous marches in opera – a golden elephant comes sailing into view on a barge…

Under Carlo Rizzi, the Wiener Symphoniker brilliantly support the chorus and soloists, among whom Iano Tamar (Amneris) and Tatiana Serjan (Aida) stand out. Drawing capacity crowds of over 200,000 spectators in just one season, “Aida” is the festival’s most successful opera to date, even more successful than the “Tosca” production, which has been immortalized in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”.

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