Griffith Opera on the Beach Comes to The Gold Coast

See the sands of Coolangatta Beach transformed into the Egyptian shoreline when Opera Australia presents “Griffith Opera on the Beach—Aida” this month.

Renowned as one of the world’s greatest outdoor operas, “Aida” will feature some of Australia’s finest singers, dazzling fireworks, colourful costumes and even surf lifesavers, who give the show a local twist. We caught up with Natalie Aroyan, who plays the title role in this Opera Australia production to learn more about “Aida” and the upcoming performances. 

Why do you think “Aida” is so popular as an opera? 

“Aida” is a profound and intimate exploration of the human soul and experience. The opera focuses on the heroine’s struggle to choose between the love for her family, the love for her country or the love for her Egyptian hero, Radamès, and inevitably endures the vulnerability of suffering, which is an inescapable part of the human existence. The audience shares Aida’s state of emotional turmoil through the passionate music of Verdi.

You appeared in an earlier Opera Australia production of “Aida” as the High Priestess. How does the principal role of Aida differ for you as a performer?
One of the main differences is this time I will actually be onstage, not behind it. High Priestess is usually performed offstage, and when I performed it for Opera Australia in my first year with the company, I was sent back, way back offstage. Performing Aida comes with a greater amount of responsibility and a far greater amount of music to learn. I am so thrilled that I am now able to perform this heroic role and to be in front of the curtain. 

What makes “Aida” a good choice for this unique performance?
Its grandiose display, its ballets and processions, its scenic vistas and exotic local colour—“Aida” is going to be a huge spectacle built upon the sands of Coolangatta Beach which will be transformed to the grandeur and mythical world of Ancient Egypt. Audiences can expect to be transported to another place and time, listen to the glorious music of Verdi under the stars all the while enjoying the casual and beautiful outdoor surrounds with family and friends. 

Opera Australia's "Aida" Opera on the Beach

What is your favourite moment in the show? 

In Act 2, Aida’s duet with the Egyptian Princess Amneris. Amneris manages to shake Aida’s composure and tricks her into revealing her love for Radamès. This makes Amneris furious. Aida subordinates her pride and abases herself before Amneris as she begs for pity. The music in this duet is sublime and the drama is so heated and passionate, it’s a great opportunity to showcase different colours through the music and the text.

What do you love most about performing at an outdoor event? 
I think one of the best features of open air concerts is the ambiance; being surrounded by the golden sands of the beach, the fresh breeze, the aroma from the sea, the gentle sound of the crashing waves, the sun trickling down on you or looking up at the glistening stars in the sky while being given the privilege to perform such amazing music.

Opera Australia's "Aida" Opera on the Beach

What is the greatest challenge for you as a performer when you appear outdoors?  

Although singing through a microphone can be challenging for opera singers, the ambiance, the open endless backdrop of nature in front of you with thousands of people sitting and enjoying themselves in full view is incomparably awe-inspiring. It’s such a special treat to be part of such an inspirational experience. And you just pray that a bug doesn’t fly into your mouth!

“Griffith Opera on the Beach—Aida” is an all-weather event. If it does rain, how will this affect the performers?
We will always strive to perform come rain or shine to give the audience the most enjoyable experience possible. The event is an all-weather experience and Opera Australia is committed to going ahead with a performance in doubtful or unfavourable weather conditions. Having performed outdoors before, it is so inspiring to see audiences supporting the singers by staying and applauding them as they sing on in the rain.
Opera Australia's "Aida" Opera on the Beach

What excites you about this production of “Aida”? 

My dream role has always been Aida. I have a great affinity to and interest in Ancient Egyptian history. Having studied the subject intensely in high school, I travelled to Egypt and visited all the ancient sites with my mother, as it is her birthplace, and soaked in all the richness of the culture. That’s why I feel so close to this opera and portraying an Ethiopian princess in the land and time of the ancient Egyptians is a dream come true. To perform this opera on such a grand scale, upon the sand dunes of ‘Ancient Egypt,’ will be a truly magical experience.