Anger over Aida
After three months of intensive preparations, an extravagant production of Verdi's Aida
to be held in Luxor and the Pyramids of Giza has been cancelled. Nevine El-Aref
It seems that the Pharaoh's curse has hit the opera. A production of Aida, the grand opera Verdi composed for the opening of the Suez Canal, has been cancelled for the second time in five years.
Last October the Cairo Opera House Company, in collaboration with a German group, announced a new production in Luxor and the Giza Pyramids of the three- act opera telling the epic love story of the Egyptian army chief Radames and Aida, the captive daughter of his arch-enemy, the king of Ethiopia. But three months before the scheduled March opening in Luxor the presentation of the classic opera has been called off.
At a press conference held at the Cairo Opera House, the company's director Abdel-Moneim Kamel blamed the cancellation on the German partners who had been contracted to organise the event, claiming they had not abided by the financial and technical terms stipulated in the contract. Kamel also said they had failed to pay half a million euros in financial charges, and contended that even if the company were able to pay such an amount the time was too short to prepare for such an extravagant production, which would not bode well with Egypt's international image.
However, according to the Deutsche Press Agency (DPA), a source close to the Egyptian delegate of the German company, Loreley Klassik, said 20,000 of the 40,000 tickets for the Luxor event had already been booked by travel agencies throughout the world.
"The decision to cancel the 12 shows that were expected to begin on 17 March in Luxor will cost the Egyptian tourist sector at least a million euros in losses," the source told the DPA. Tourism companies who bought both the event tickets and flights to Luxor are expected to suffer major losses.
The Egyptian and German sides held a bilateral meeting, but this proved a failure. Rumour has it that Kamel's rigid action is a result of tension with the former head of the Opera House, Samir Farag, who is now head of Luxor City Council and who, during his tenure, signed the contract with the German company.
The cancellation has triggered great anger among Egyptian travel agencies who described it as bad news for the Egyptian tourism industry. Meanwhile the people of Luxor, most of whom gain a living from tourism, oppose the decision to cancel the opera and are hoping to hold the event as scheduled. They have appealed to Culture Minister Farouk Hosni asking him for swift intervention to reverse the decision.
According to the signed contract, the German company is also organising another six performances of Aida at the Opera House starting in September and a seventh at the original setting for the opera at the Giza Pyramids. Up to now, no decision has been taken on these performances and it is not known if they will go ahead.