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Second Italian opera company plans an `A"ida' among the ruins

Building on the spectacle of the Arena de Verona production of ``A"ida'' in Luxor, Egypt, in May, another Italian opera company has announced that it, too, intends to mount Verdi's Egyptian-set opera in situ - this time at the Pyramids of Giza, Sept. 21-30. This production, by the Teatro Petruzelli in Bari, Italy, has been two years in the making. The producers hope to improve upon Luxor's lukewarm reception.

The Luxor production was labeled by some spectators a nightmare, a half-event that failed to fill many of its pricey, 45,000 seats, while trying in vain to please everyone. By contrast, planners in Bari are making no attempt at disguising Giza's real nature. Aiming at the genuine opera lover and not just the jet-setter, they have priced seats for the September production at about $185 to $370 - easily half those of Luxor's.

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Moreover, productions will feature a rotating, internationally known cast, so as to ensure that all performances have an appeal beyond the mere fact that they are set in Egypt. Confirmed performers so far include: Katia Ricciarelli, Renato Bruson, Ghena Dimitrova, Giuseppe Giacomini, Grace Bumbry, Justino Diaz, and Galina Savova. Luciano Pavarotti may be coming as well.

Acoustics could be a problem again

But however well-planned the Giza production is, it may have trouble avoiding the problem that marred Luxor most of all: bad acoustics.

Despite the use of some microphones during the Luxor performances, arias tended to float away down the Nile or into the open expanse of air and sky, turning A"ida from a dense, operatic spectacle into a merely visual one that disappointed many members of the audience.

As Placido Domingo said after the opening performance in Luxor: ``Verdi would have been satisfied with the surroundings, but for the music, he would have liked to hear it better.''

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