An all-star cast takes on the grandest of grand operas
– which returns to our stage for the first time in nearly a decade.
There is hardly any opera in the repertoire that offers as many musical thrills as Aida – from the epic “Triumphal March” to the intimate passion expressed between secret lovers from rival kingdoms. Verdi’s magic is his ability to let you feel the grandness of the setting from the music alone.
This one-night-only event is a special opportunity to not only hear this most famous of operas on our stage for the first time since 2013, but also to experience it with two of the most important sopranos of our time: the captivating Angel Blue, singing Aida for the first time in preparation for her first full production of the work at the Royal Opera Covent Garden; and our very own Christine Goerke in the role of Amneris. And that’s not even mentioning superstar performers Riccardo Massi, Alfred Walker and Morris Robinson, who complete a truly all-star cast.
Conducted by Jonathon Heyward, one of the most exciting young conductors on the international scene, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear some of the most famous music in opera by an extraordinary group of musicians.
*ONE NIGHT ONLY*
Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Antonio Ghislanzoni
Conductor: Jonathon Heyward
Performed in Italian with English Titles
Run Time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission
Jonathon Heyward is forging a career as one of the most exciting conductors on the international scene. He currently serves as Music Director Designate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and will begin his five-year contract in the 2023–24 season. In March 2022, Jonathon made his debut with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in three performances that included the first-ever performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15. Quickly re-engaged, he returned in April to lead a Benefit Concert for Ukraine at the Meyerhoff.
Currently in his second year as Chief Conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, in summer 2021, Jonathon took part in an intense, two-week residency with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which led to a highly acclaimed BBC Proms debut. This season, he debuts with the Musikkollegium Winterthur in Switzerland, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine in France, Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Finland, MDR-Sinfonieorchester in Germany, and the National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin, Ireland. In his native United States, he returns to the Seattle Symphony and makes debuts with the Houston Symphony and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and at Grant Park and Mostly Mozart music Festivals. Equally at home on the opera stage, Jonathon recently made his Royal Opera House debut with Hannah Kendall’s Knife of Dawn, having also conducted a Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra as well as the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s new opera Wake, in a production by Graham Vick for the Birmingham Opera Company.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Jonathon studied conducting at the Boston Conservatory of Music, and received postgraduate lessons at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Before leaving the Academy, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, and became Music Director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra.
Soprano Angel Blue’s importance in opera today cannot be overstated. On September 23, 2019, she opened the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019–20 season as Bess in a new production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for which she earned a GRAMMY Award in the Best Opera Recording category.She reprised this role at the Met in autumn 2021, which immediately followed her triumphant role debut as Destiny/Loneliness/Greta in the Met’s historic 2021–22 season opener of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones,the first production at the Metropolitan Opera by a Black composer. Additionally, she was the 2020 recipient of the Met’s prestigious Beverly Sills Award—the first African American artist to receive this honor—and she was the 2022 Richard Tucker Foundation Awardee. She has been praised for performances in nearly every major opera house in the world, including Teatro alla Scala, the Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Semperoper Dresden, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Theater an der Wien, Oper Frankfurt, and San Diego Opera.
The 2022–23 season is a display of Angel’s immense versatility and virtuosity on operatic and concert stages internationally. Blue opens Houston Grand Opera’s season with her house debut as Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata; she sings Violetta later in the spring of 2023 at the Metropolitan Opera. The California native returns to longtime collaborator LA Opera performing the titular role in Puccini’s Tosca, and she reprises this role at Santa Fe Opera in early summer 2023. Blue performs in this special one-night-only performance of Aida in Concert at the Detroit Opera, whichwill be Blue’s debut in the title role, alongside Christine Goerke. In spring 2023, Angel appears as Aida at the Royal Opera House.
Soprano Christine Goerke has appeared in many of the most prestigious opera houses of the world including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Opera House, Paris Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Real in Madrid, and the Saito Kinen Festival. She has sung much of the great soprano repertoire, beginning with the Mozart and Handel heroines and now moving into dramatic R. Strauss and Wagner roles. She has also appeared with many leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Radio Vara, the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms, and both the Hallè Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Christine's recording of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra won the 2003 GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Recording and Best Choral Performance. Her close association with Robert Shaw yielded several recordings, which include of Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes, Poulenc’s Stabat Mater, Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, and the GRAMMY-nominated recording of Dvořák's Stabat Mater. Other recordings include the title role in Iphigenie en Tauride for Telarc and Britten’s War Requiem, which won the 1999 GRAMMY Award for Best Choral Performance.
Christine is the Associate Artistic Director of Detroit Opera (formerly Michigan Opera Theatre). She was the recipient of the 2001 Richard Tucker Award, the 2015 Musical America Vocalist of the Year Award, and the 2017 Opera News Award.
Riccardo Massi quickly established himself as one of the most in-demand Italian tenors internationally, garnering great success playing the heroes of Puccini and Verdi. A specialist in the art of the use of ancient and medieval weapons, before embarking on a career as an opera singer, he enjoyed a flourishing career as a stuntman. He has participated in various films including Martin Scorsese’s The Gangs of New York, ABC’s miniseries Empire, and HBO’s series Rome.
2009 was the year of Riccardo’s operatic debut in Salernoas Radamès in Aida. In 2012, he made his debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in the same role, which he also sang at Houston Grand Opera in 2013. Projects for the 2022–23 season in addition to this performance of Aida at Detroit Opera include Norma at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, Tosca in Toulon and Genoa, Madama Butterfly in Bordeaux, and Hérodiade in Düsseldorf. Last season, he debuted with Don Carlo at theSemperoper in Dresden, sang in Toscaat theRoyal Opera House, participated in the AIDS Gala at the Deutsche Oper inBerlin, and made his debut at theTeatro Carlo Felice in Genoa with Manon Lescaut. He returned to HamburgwithAida and made his debut at the Wiesbadenfestival with Don Carlo. Other notable appearances in previous seasons include his debut in the role ofGabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra at the Marseille Opera, Manrico in Il trovatore at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Washington National Opera and theSemperoperin Dresden, and Pollione in Norma at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
In the 2022–23 season, Alfred Walker returns to San Francisco Opera as Enobarbus in the world premiere of John Adams’s Antony and Cleopatra, joins the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Vater in Hänsel und Gretel, returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Masetto in Don Giovanni, sings Rachmaninoff’s The Bells with the LA Philharmonic, and joins the Boston Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Last season’s credits included Scarpia in Tosca (San Francisco Opera); Crown in Porgy and Bess (Metropolitan Opera); Mtchll in It All Falls Down / Written in Stone (Washington National Opera); Nilakantha in Lakmé (Washington Concert Opera); and Tom in Un ballo in maschera (Chicago Symphony Orchestra).
Walker’s recent credits include Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana (Detroit Opera); Vater in Hänsel und Gretel and Orest in Elektra (San Francisco Opera); Oroveso in Norma (Boston Lyric Opera); the title role in Der fliegende Holländer (Theater Basel, Oper Köln, Seattle Opera, Théâtre de Caen, Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Wagner Geneva Festival); Titurel in Parsifal and the Speaker in The Magic Flute (Metropolitan Opera); Amonasro in Aida and Porgy in Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera); Amfortas in Parsifal and Amonasro in Aida (Theater Basel); the title role of Josh Gibson in the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg’s The Player King (Pittsburgh Opera); and Allazim in Peter Sellars’s production of Zaide (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Wiener Festwochen, London’s Barbican Centre, and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival).
Walker, a New Orleans native, is a graduate of Dillard University, Loyola University, and the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Program. He is the recipient of awards from the George London Foundation, Palm Beach Opera Competition, Houston Opera Studio’s Eleanor McCollum Competition, and the Sullivan Foundation career grant.
Morris Robinson is considered one the most interesting and sought-after basses performing today. He regularly appears at the Metropolitan Opera where he debuted in a production of Fidelio and has since appeared as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte (both in the original production and in the children’s English version), Ferrando in Il trovatore, the King in Aida, and in roles in Nabucco, Tannhäuser, and the new productions of Les Troyens and Salome. He has also appeared at the San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Volksoper Wien, Opera Australia, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. His many roles include the title role in Porgy and Bess, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Ramfis in Aida, Zaccaria in Nabucco, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos, Timur in Turandot, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, Padre Guardiano in La forza del destino, Ferrando in Il trovatore, Fasolt in Das Rheingold, and Landgraf in Tannhäuser. He is also a prolific concert singer.
This season, Morris debuts two important roles: King Marke in Tristan und Isolde at the Seattle Opera and Daland in Der fliegende Holländer at the Santa Fe Opera. He also returns to LA Opera for Otello and appears in concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Opera, and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional in the Dominican Republic, in addition to this performance with Detroit Opera.
Morris’s solo album Going Home was released on the Decca label. He also appears as Joe in the DVD of the San Francisco Opera production of Show Boat, and in the DVDs of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Salome and the Aix-en-Provence Festival’s production of Mozart’s Zaide.
King of Egypt
Kenneth Kellogg’s recent career highlights include his debut at San Francisco Opera as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Dr. Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro at Maryland Lyric Opera following his role debut there as Grand Inquisitor/Philip II in Don Carlo. He appeared as Commendatore in Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera and returned for the role of Father in Blue, and brought the roles of Rocco in Fidelio at North Carolina Opera and Raimondo in Lucia de Lammermoor at Madison Opera into his repertoire. He traveled to Kraków, Poland for highly lauded performances of Rossini’s Sigismondo in the two roles of Ulderico and Zenovito with Capella Cracoviensis. In addition to this Detroit Opera performance as Il Re (King of Egypt) in Aida, Kenneth Kellogg’s other engagements this season include the roles of Ramfis in Aida and Sparafucile in Rigoletto.
Kenneth created the role of Father in Blue, written by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, for Glimmerglass Festival’s world premiere, which brought him great acclaim. He recently appeared in the role at Detroit Opera and at Pittsburgh Opera and appeared on the recording made by Washington National Opera; in November 2022, he appeared with the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam in the European premiere of Blue.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Kenneth began his formal musical training at the Duke Ellington School of the Performing and Visual Arts. He continued his studies at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, and he is an Alumnus of the Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera and the Domingo-Cafritz Emerging Artist Program at Washington National Opera.
Praised for her “beaming soprano” by Operawire, Melanie Spector was born and raised in New York City. She is a second-year Resident Artist at Detroit Opera, where she made her debut as the High Priestess in Verdi’s Aida singing next to operatic stars Angel Blue and Christine Goerke. For this performance, Melanie received critical acclaim for her “exceptional pitch, pristine sound, and unwavering commitment to operatic excellence” (Operawire). Other recent performances include Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52, Mozart's “Vorrei spiegarvi, o dio” K. 418 and Requiem with the Midland Symphony Orchestra and Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Wayne State Wind Symphony at Detroit Symphony’s Orchestra Hall. In her first season at Detroit Opera, she has covered the roles of Atalanta in Handel’s Xerxes and Margarita Xirgu in Golijov’s Ainadamar. She has been recognized by prestigious organizations including the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition and the Gerda Lissner Foundation. Melanie's recent highlights include Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at Michigan’s Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and in August she will make her role debut as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Savannah Opera during the 2023 Savannah VOICE Festival.
During Detroit Opera's 2023-2024 main stage season, Melanie will be featured as a soloist in Arias and Overtures, Beyond the Pit and in John Cage's Europeras 3 & 4. Melanie will also sing the role of Chochulka in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
Leo Williams is a proud alumnus of Indiana University and recipient of the Georgina Joshi International Grant, and the Jacobs Premier and the Schmidt Foundation Scholarships. Stage credits at Indiana University include Don Giovanni,La fille du régiment, Peter Grimes, The Crucible, The Consul, Rigoletto, Les pêcheurs de perles, Samson et Dalila, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Lucia di Lammermoor. He has also had an active performing career overseas spanning five continents appearing in La bohème, L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Don Giovanni. Leo was a 2020 Opera Maya Studio artist, Berlin Opera Academy Principal Artist, and an Opernfest Prague Fellow. Recent debuts include Cavaradossi in Tosca for the Sitzprobe with the Naples Philharmonic; Spoletta in Tosca for Gulfshore Opera (Naples, Florida); Macduff and Malcom in Verdi’s Macbeth (Australia); Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte (Germany). He is a past participant in the UNISA International Voice Competition (South Africa), and a recent soloist with the Key Chorale and Sarasota Ballet singing works of Margaret Bonds. After winning a coveted spot in the nationwide Detroit Opera Resident Artist Program final auditions, he joined the program for the 2022–23 season, where he has been the official cover for Faust in Gounod’s Faust, and makes his Detroit Opera debut singing the role of Messenger in Aïda and the role of Torero in Fountain of Tears (Ainadamar).
An avid lover of world travel and speaker of five languages with years of classical dance training, Leo is well recognized in South Florida’s dance and theatrical arts community. He served as Assistant Professor of the IU Soul Revue, acting as vocal coach, teacher, and choreographer. Currently teaching as a private voice instructor, he is also a freelance soloist at the First Church of Christian Science in Fort Lauderdale and Church by the Sea in Bal Harbor.
Moníka Essen is an award-winning, nationally recognized artist, designer, and director. The recipient of the prestigious Lawrence DeVine Award for Outstanding Contribution to Theatre, she studied Interior Architecture and Environmental Design at Parsons School of Design and received her MFA in Scenography from the renowned Hilberry Repertory Company.
Moníka has designed countless productions in theatre, opera, and film. For Detroit Opera she designed their highly acclaimed productions of Bliss, Carmina Burana, and The Medium, as well as their spectacular production of Frida. She has just recently directed and designed La Cenerentola for Opera Modo in Detroit, with an entirely new concept she devised, which included a new and modern libretto in English. Currently, she is working on a furniture line and an exciting new version of The Tales of Hoffmann.
Moníka is an accomplished painter, and creates murals, custom furniture, museum exhibits, interiors, and full sensory, multi-media environments for residential and commercial clients, including the Detroit Zoo. All her work can be viewed at studioepoque.com.
Chelsie McPhilimy is thrilled to be joining the creative team of Aida. She is a freelance lighting and media designer, and also an Assistant Professor of the Practice in Dance at Wesleyan University.
Recent design credits include Cartography (New York City, International Tour), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Flint Repertory Theatre, Wilde Award Winner), Soundstage (Here Arts, New York City), and The Balcony (Marymount Manhattan College, New York City). cmlightingdesign.com
Production Stage Manager
AIDA marks Ken’s return to the Detroit Opera House after 20 seasons with the company where he most recently stage managed his 72nd show, FRIDA. He was honored to stage manage MOT world premieres MARGARET GARNER with Denyce Graves and Founder David DiChiera’s CYRANO along with presentations of Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle and Renee Fleming and the Dr. David DiChiera Grand Salute. Ken comes back to Detroit having just finished his 22nd Yuletide Celebration with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Ken and his husband of 32 years Duane Prill make their home in the Finger Lakes region of NY state where they manage the Lamoka Hideaway.
Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs
Ramfis, the Egyptians’ chief priest, tells Radamès that the god Isis has chosen the general who will lead the Egyptian armies into battle against the invading Ethiopians. Radamès hopes that he has been chosen so that he may return victorious to Aida, an enslaved Ethiopian woman, whom he loves. Amneris, Princess of Egypt, secretly loves Radamès but suspects a relationship between him and Aida. The Pharaoh hears reports of the invasion. He announces that Isis has chosen Radamès as Egyptian commander-in-chief and leads everyone in demanding revenge on the Ethiopians. Amneris urges Radamès to return victorious.
Aida, who is actually the daughter of the Ethiopian king, Amonasro, is torn between her love for her country and for Radamès. In despair, she implores the pity of the gods.
Ramfis brings Radamès to the altar in the temple, where he receives a sword and the gods’ blessing on the campaign.
Amneris prepares to welcome back Radamès from the war. Amneris tricks Aida into telling her Radamès has been killed in battle. Seeing Aida’s reaction, Amneris has confirmed her suspicion that Aida is her romantic rival. After threatening Aida, Amneris departs for the festivities.
The Egyptians have won the war and a triumphal scene celebrates Radamès’ victory. Amneris crowns him victor, and the Pharaoh offers him any reward he may name. Radamès asks for the Ethiopian prisoners to be summoned. Aida recognizes her father, Amonasro among them; he is in disguise and warns her not to reveal his true identity. Amonasro pleads for his fellow captives’ lives, but Ramfis and the priests demand their death. As his reward, Radamès requests freedom for the Ethiopians. The Pharaoh compromises, retaining Aida and her father as hostages. He then declares Radamès shall marry Amneris and promises that he will one day rule as Pharaoh. Amneris exults at this unexpected turn of fortune, while Radamès and Aida despair.
Ramfis takes Amneris to pray in the temple of Isis before the wedding. Aida, nearby, dreams of her homeland while she waits to meet Radamès. Her thoughts are interrupted by her father, Amonasro, who demands that she learn from Radamès what the Egyptians’ next attack plan will be.
When Radamès arrives, Aida suggests to him that he does not love her enough to leave Egypt and live with her in Ethiopia. She points out that if she and her father remain in Egypt they will be executed. He agrees to flee with her, and she asks him which route they should take to avoid the Egyptian troops. After he tells her, Amonasro appears and reveals his true identity. Radamès is appalled that he has unwittingly betrayed his country. Amneris and Ramfis emerge from the temple. Amonasro moves to attack Amneris, but Radamès prevents him. Amonasro and Aida escape. Now a traitor, Radamès surrenders to Ramfis.
Radamès awaits trial. Amneris resolves to try to save him. She begs him to renounce Aida: the price of her intercession on his behalf with the Pharaoh. When he refuses, she dismisses him. The priests condemn him to be entombed alive for treason. Amneris curses them as they leave.
Radamès has been sealed in a tomb, where he discovers Aida hidden inside, waiting for him. They declare their love for each other. Amneris mourns for Radamès as Aida dies in his arms.
*ONE NIGHT ONLY*
Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Antonio Ghislanzoni
Conductor: Jonathon Heyward
Performed in Italian with English Titles
Run Time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one intermission