AFTER 18 months of painstaking planning, ancient Egypt has begun rising from the sands of the Gold Coast.
Two giant, hand-carved 7.6m high Pharaoh statues were moved into position on Coolangatta Beach on the weekend as Opera Australia crew began building a massive outdoor stage for Opera on the Beach — Aida from September 21 to 30.
Carved out of large blocks of polystyrene in a warehouse in Sydney by a specialist team of sculptors, welders, carpenters and scenic artists, the Pharaohs took 240 hours to make. Once complete, the sets and props were broken down into 2.5m units, packed into eight semi-trailers and transported to the Coast to be reassembled in the sand.
Opera on the Beach — Aida executive producer Louisa Robertson said specialist crew would spend the next 10 days transforming the beach into a pop-up performance venue for the new touring production of Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece.
“A lot is involved,” she said.
“It has taken us about a year and a half to get to where we are today.”
With 35 tonnes of ballast to support the seaside stage’s scaffold, the performance space has been purpose-built to accommodate a huge cast and orchestra — 10 principal artists, 10 dancers, 50 musicians, a Community Chorus of 55 singers and two camels.
The story of a royal love triangle spanning two nations at war, Aida is set in Egypt and performed in Italian.
Ranked number 12 on the Operabase list of the world’s most-performed operas, Aida has been sung more than 1100 times since 1886.
Ms Robertson said up to 3800 people would see Aida each night during its exclusive Opera on the Beach season — 1574 of them from the comfort of a folding beach chair in the sand as waves break nearby.
Cast and crew will begin rehearsing on the beach set from September 15 before Opera On The Beach — Aida opens on September 21.
Building a pop-up venue on the beach is a monumental undertaking as these mind-boggling facts and figures prove.
— Two Pharaohs tower 7.6m over the stage. They’re carved out of polystyrene. It took two props makers 240 hours to make the statues.
— The staircase on stage is 17m long
— 10 principal artists, 10 dancers, 50 musicians and 55 Community Chorus singers are involved in the production.
— It takes 11 days to turn the beach into a pop-up performance venue. Two manitous (large forklifts) work all day, every day bringing set pieces and infrastructure across the sand.
— Two camels travelled all the way from NSW to be part of the show
— The venue includes 130m of white picket fencing, 400m of temporary fencing and 1000 sqm of ground protection
— 35 tonnes of ballast support the stage scaffold
— 1km of festoon lighting illuminates the site
— 3800 audience members will see each night’s show
— 150 shots will explode into the night during the fireworks display.