SINGAPORE - Giuseppe Verdi's tragic love story Aida, one of the most popular operas in the world, begins its run at the Esplanade Theatre on Friday night (June 1).
The Singapore Lyric Opera production features some 100 singers, actors and dancers and is one of the company's biggest productions since Turandot in 2008.
Set in ancient Egypt, it tells the story of star-crossed lovers Aida, a captured Ethiopian princess, and Radames, an Egyptian general.
The work premiered in 1871 to celebrate the opening of the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo and has since become one of the most-performed operas in the world.
Mexican mezzo soprano Grace Echauri, who has played Egyptian princess Amneris in no fewer than six productions of Aida, says the one in Singapore sees her "trying to project a princess who is still a teenager and discovering love for the first time".
Classical singer and teacher Steven Ang, who plays the Pharaoh, says Egypt in the production is "a religious state, a priest state... the separation of state versus religion is such an eternal concept. It's a fight we are still struggling with".
His character, who must select a younger generation of leaders who can make Egypt more liberal, comes with a headdress that weighs about 2kg.
"When I first saw it, I was like, 'Oh my goodness, it's massive.' But it looks amazing. I feel so much grander, taller and more powerful."
Norwegian tenor Thomas Ruud says there is much in Verdi's opera that will resonate with audiences today.
"Falling in love with the wrong girl, having hopes and dreams and failing."
He takes to the stage as Radames on Friday after "nine hours of sleep" and a heavy steak.