Olivier Award-winner Phelim McDermott’s new production of Aida launches ENO’s 2017/18 season

4th August 2017 in Press

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Director, Phelim McDermott
Conductor, Keri-Lynn Wilson/Christian Baldini (10 & 17 November)

Olivier Award-winner Phelim McDermott’s new production of Aida launches ENO’s 2017/18 season

Opens Thursday 28 September at 7.30pm at the London Coliseum (16 performances)

Following the success of the ‘astonishing’ (The Guardian) Akhnaten in 2016, visionary director Phelim McDermott and theatre company Improbable return to ENO with a bold new production of Verdi’s Aida. Featuring the creative team behind ENO’s Akhhnaten, winner of the 2017 Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production, and powered by ENO’s award-winning Chorus and Orchestra, this will be an Aida of a kind unseen before on the London stage.

In addition to the forces of Improbable, acclaimed female-led contemporary circus company Mimbre and renowned puppeteer Basil Twist round off an artistic team at the forefront of theatrical innovation.

Phelim McDermott is famed for his success in bringing Philip Glass’s works to ENO, with 2007’s Satyagraha described as ‘the most distinctive and brilliant achievement on the London operatic scene in more than a decade’ (The Daily Telegraph). Now he returns to create an atmospheric, contemporary twist on Verdi’s great tale of doomed love.

McDermott comments:
I’ve never directed something like Aida before, but everyone knows the opera – it is the archetypal operatic love story. It’s a story worthy of the thing that only opera can do, which is to create theatre, music and drama at the same time. For us it’s like a sister production to Akhnaten – you can see that it’s born from the same kind of impulses. I would say, don’t expect to see Ancient Egypt on stage. Do expect to see a wonderful, intimate, moving story.’

Sharing the title role of the tragic Ethiopian princess who must choose between her homeland and her love will be two sopranos whose previous performances as Aida have received wide praise. Latonia Moore will sing the role from the 28 September to the 27 October and Morenike Fadayomi will take over from the 31 October to the 2 December. Moore has sung the role at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, the Royal Opera House and Sydney Opera House among others, hailed as ‘celestial’(Bachtrack) and ‘radiant’ (The Guardian). Both sopranos make their ENO debuts with this production.

Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones makes his second appearance for ENO this year as the captain of the guard and lover of Aida, Radamès, after a ‘superb’ (The Sunday Times) appearance in The Dream of Gerontius in July. A much-loved star of many recent ENO productions, he was described as ‘everything you could want’ (The Times) for his last role at the London Coliseum, Cavaradossi in 2016’s Tosca.

Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung makes her company debut as Amneris, Aida’s rival in love. DeYoung is a Grammy Award–winning artist who has previously sung the role for Cincinnati Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Also making her company debut, Dana Beth Miller takes over the role from her from the 31 October to the 2 December.

Rising South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana makes his UK operatic debut as the defeated Ethiopian ruler Amonasro, having received praise in the US for his ‘rich, glowing voice’ (The New York Times). Bass Matthew Best returns to ENO to sing the King after his ‘outstanding’ (Guardian) in 2014’s premiere of Julian Anderson’s Thebans.

British bass Brindley Sherratt returns to ENO as Ramfis. His previous performance as Creon in 2013’s Medea was called ‘outstanding’ by the Financial Times and he makes his first of two appearances at the Coliseum this season before returning for Satyagraha in the spring. The cast is completed by ENO Harewood Artists Eleanor Dennis and David Webb as the High Priestess and Messenger respectively.

Leading the ENO Orchestra in the pit will be Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who makes a very welcome return after her ‘majestic house debut’ (What’s On Stage) in 2014 with Richard Jones’s Olivier Award-winning The Girl of the Golden West. Formerly the Music Director of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, she has conducted operas across Europe to great acclaim, with this being only her second time conducting in the UK: ‘clearly, we’ve been missing out’ (Bachtrack). Christian Baldini will conduct the performances on the 10 and 17 November.

As with Phelim McDermott’s productions of Satyagraha and Akhnaten (in which the Gandini Juggling Company featured prominently), Aida will feature a Skills Ensemble formed of artists drawn from outside opera. The Skills Ensemble will be created with Improbable and Mimbre, a female-led acrobatic theatre company (‘we were completely swept away’ – Londonist), choreographed by Lina Johansson who also takes the role of Movement Director. They will be joining the ENO Chorus to create visually dazzling ensemble scenes that bring a new kind of spectacle to this, the grandest of operas.

Silk effects will be provided by US puppeteer, silk artist and designer Basil Twist, one of the most influential and admired practitioners in his field: ‘no theatre artist in New York is showing more poetic force or technical skill than the puppeteer Basil Twist’ (The New Yorker). His productions of The Rite of Spring (‘breathtaking’ – The Wall Street Journal) and Symphonie Fantastique (‘true magic’ – The New York Times) have been feted for their elaborate silk effects and abstract storytelling through shape and colour.

The creative team of Tom Pye, Kevin Pollard and Bruno Poet for Set, Costume and Lighting Designer respectively return from the previous Improbable shows for ENO. Translation is by Edmund Tracey.

ENO will collaborate with the Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal Opera House around their exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (30 September 2017 – 25 February 2018). As part of ENO’s involvement in the exhibition, ENO Baylis (our learning and participation programme) will develop a site-specific free public performance involving over 100 diverse community participants and professional artists inspired by ENO’s new production of Aida. This performance follows the success of our Millions of Years project in 2016, where a performance inspired by Akhnaten culminated in the Great Court of the British Museum, watched by over 3,000 people.

Aida opens on Thursday 28 September at 7.30pm at the London Coliseum for 16 performances: 03, 06, 09, 11 19 21 27, 31 October, 10, 17, 27, 29 November at 7.30pm, 14 October and 4 November at 6.30pm, and 2 December at 3pm.

500 tickets for £20 or less are available for each performance. Tickets start from £12.

A collaboration with Improbable
A co-production with Houston Grand Opera
New production supported by a syndicate of donors


Notes to Editors:

English National Opera is founded on the belief that opera of the highest quality should be accessible to everyone. We are a national company of international standard. We forge ground-breaking collaborations across art forms, and our world-class productions inspire, surprise, and captivate. We sing in English. We believe that singing in our own language connects the performers and the audience to the drama onstage, and enhances the experience for all. We bring our productions to the widest possible audience, whether at the London Coliseum, nationally or internationally. We make our work accessible by offering a large proportion of tickets at affordable prices, and by distributing it widely on screen and via digital media. We nurture talent across the entire company, whether on-stage, backstage, or in the pit. We provide a platform for young singers to develop global careers.
We tell the world’s most timeless stories, unforgettably.

Improbable is led by Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson. The company’s work occupies a vital space in the landscape of UK theatre. At the heart of our artistic practice is improvisation. Not all of our shows are improvised live every night, but each will use improvisational techniques in the process of creation. As a deeply democratic artform, we see improvisation in all its forms as a tool for social change and our mission is to create a cultural shift that sees creativity placed at the heart of everyday life. Our recent projects include Lost Without Words, an improvised piece with actors in their 70s and 80s at the National Theatre; Opening Skinner’s Box, a show exploring ten (in)famous psychological experiments at the Lincoln Center Festival New York and on UK tour; and Permission Improbable, an ongoing project to explore a female-led culture of improvisation. Improbable’s recent collaborations with ENO include acclaimed productions of Philip Glass’ Satyagraha and Akhnaten (winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Opera), both directed by Phelim McDermott. Improbable is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England. www.improbable.co.uk

Mimbre uses movement, high physicality, and circus innovatively as a physical language to illuminate human connections and promote a positive image of women. Formed in 1999 and female-led, the creative and performance pedigree of Mimbre’s Artistic Directors Lina Johansson and Silvia Fratelli have earned the company a notable reputation for innovation and creativity.


Aida – Latonia Moore (Sep 28-Oct 27), Morenike Fadayomi (Oct 31-Dec 2)
Radamès – Gwyn Hughes Jones
Amneris – Michelle DeYoung (Sep 28-Oct 27), Dana Beth Miller (Oct 31-Dec 2)
Amonasro – Musa Ngqungwana
Ramfis – Brindley Sherratt (Robert Winslade Anderson, 11 Oct)
King – Matthew Best (Graeme Broadbent, 31 Oct, 04 Nov)
High Priestess – Eleanor Dennis
Messenger – David Webb

Conductor – Keri-Lynn Wilson/Christian Baldini (10 & 17 November)