Opera on Ice 2013
November 6, 2013
By Anna Bertoloni
Photos © Foto Studio Guindani
'Opera on Ice' comes back on September 28th with its third edition, following the huge success of the previous ones. A show that brings together some of the world's most celebrated skating champions and the best expression of music - in the amazing location of the largest opera house in the world.
One of the main goals of the show has always been to introduce people to opera.
"To be honest, before the first edition of 'Opera on Ice' I had no idea what opera really was", tells Carolina Kostner. "Naively, I thought 'I don't like it, I don't understand it'. But now, after working on it for three years, I have developed a great interest in opera and I also learned to love it. Maybe it took me a bit of time, a bit of maturity. But it is something that really enriches your life."
For this reason, the presenters take a few minutes to explain to the public the story, the spirit of the opera and the characters, before each performance of the skaters.
This year's repertoire and cast have been carefully selected by the Fondazione Arena di Verona, directed by Maestro Paolo Gavazzeni. Together with the Arena di Verona Choir and Orchestra, wonderfully directed by Maestro Fabio Mastrangelo, there are outstanding opera singers who interpret the most famous operas: Vittorio Grigolo, tenor; Elisa Balbo, soprano; Natalia Roman, soprano; Davit Babayants, baritone; Alice Marini, mezzo-soprano; and Stefano Tanzillo, tenor.
New for this edition is the tribute to Luciano Pavarotti.
"I am not allowed to skate here!", Stéphane Lambiel jokes with us during practice. Actually, the skaters who will compete in the Sochi 2014 Olympics dance to the notes of Nessun Dorma (which was the last live performance recorded by Pavarotti, during the Olympic Games of Turin 2006) - while the Butterflies gymnastic team draws the Olympic emblem behind them.
Being part of the cast since the very first edition, Italian ice dance champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte can not miss the event. This time, it's up to them to interpret the beautiful waltz Je veux vivre, from C. Gounod's Romeo et Juliette - a must in the city of Verona where the Shakespearean tragedy took place (assigned last year to Stéphane Lambiel and Carolina Kostner). For the second act, they skate to the intense Amami Alfredo (G. Verdi, La Traviata). Great acting, and two just lovely costumes for Anna's characters (Juliet and Violetta).
"The magnificent Arena and the vibrant music emanating from the great Orchestra and opera singers just make the emotion flow stronger than ever!", Anna and Luca write on their official Facebook.
Canadian champions and World bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford thrill the audience with G. Bizet's Carmen ("Les voici, les voici!"), and the impressive O Fortuna, from Carmina Burana (C. Orff) - one of the most appreciated musical themes of the evening. "If you watch closely", Eric tells us, "you may notice that a lot of the moves we do are from our long program. It was funny, because we knew it would have been very difficult to try and learn a whole bunch of a new choreography, so we wanted to use as much of our choreography as we possibly could. So I watched through our long program with the 'Carmina Burana' [music] and it fit almost perfectly. We laughed: 'Oh, that is going be a lot easier than we thought!'"
"The music from 'Carmen' is very, very different than anything that Eric and I have ever skated to", Meagan adds. "It was quite a challenge. It was very fast and upbeat the entire time, but in the end I think it worked out really well. It was really exciting when we were able to skate 'Carmen', and the crowd was so excited, they were clapping the entire time, it was really an amazing feeling."
European bronze medalists Stefania Berton and Ondřej Hotárek skate first to Bella figlia dell'amore from G. Verdi's Rigoletto. Then, they open the second act with Coro di zingarelle e mattadori (G. Verdi, La Traviata) after a few minutes of suspense: a light rain begins to fall right before their performance - but the Italian champions complete their program under the rain without hesitation.
Evgeni Plushenko erases any doubt about his good shape for the upcoming season, performing a striking series of clean jumps and combinations to the notes of E lucevan le stelle (G. Puccini, Tosca), accompanied by the wonderful singing of tenor Vittorio Grigolo.
Shizuka Arakawa's Casta Diva (V. Bellini, Norma) is indeed ethereal as the moon - as well as her perfect performance of Un bel dì vedremo from V. Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
And the beautiful voice of soprano Elisa Balbo adds even more magic to Shizuka's skating: the music draws a lot of applause from the audience, as much as the happenings on the ice.
Stéphane Lambiel enchants the public with his interpretations of F. Schubert's Ave Maria and Votre toast from G. Bizet's Carmen.
"With Salomé (Brunner - ed) we forgot about anything we've seen before, and we just tried to get into the music, to get the feeling", he tells us during a meeting the day before the show. "This is a special place - so that it makes another dimension, and it's for me a great opportunity to skate 'Ave Maria' here. At the beginning there is an angel coming down from the Arena, and he's kind of passing me the power from Heaven."
Speaking about Votre toast, he adds: "It was my idea to skate to 'Carmen'. It was the first opera that I've ever seen, when I was maybe 12, with Peter (Grütter - ed)." Stéphane's character is that of Escamillo, the toreador. "We were imagining that there is a bull in front of me. At the beginning of the number I go in front of the bull and I try to provoke it, but the bull is not ready. So I have to go back and try again, and then there is a second try and I can kill the bull. Everybody in the village celebrates my victory, and that's how I seduce Carmen."
Actually, spectators are involved in the exhibition and the whole Arena is filled with white handkerchiefs (in the Spanish ceremony of the pañolada, white handkerchiefs are waved from the public to ask indulgence for the bull).
Carolina Kostner is one of the most awaited stars of the evening: her amazing and graceful programs leave the audience breathless.
In The dance of the hours (A. Ponchielli, La Gioconda) she skates together with 12 girls of the synchronized team The Hot Shivers, representing the 12 hours. Carolina has a young partner on the ice also for her second performance, Va pensiero (G. Verdi, Nabucco): Alexandra, the daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco.
"I remember that as a child, when I was home in the evening, I put some music and danced around the house", Carolina tells during the press conference. "It has always been a dream of mine to prepare something and then show it to the public. Since childhood... and then sometimes I asked to my family to come to my room and see me. For me, to be able to skate in Arena is really something very magical. It is amazing, to be able to turn that dream that I had as a child into such a great satisfaction: to have the opportunity to grow from my little room to a monument as big as the Arena."
The cast also includes 4 special guests: the Butterflies, Italian Air Force Rhythmic gymnastic team, World and Olympic champions (Elisa Blanchi, Romina Laurito, Anzhelika Savrayuk and Elisa Santoni).
"Costumes turned into works of art"
Opera on Ice features costumes created exclusively for the show. The whole cast dresses with real operatic costumes, designed with the help of theatre costume designer Lorena Marin. The 2013 edition features 15 new costumes: among them the one developed by Fashion Ground Academy for Carolina's The Dance of the Hours portrays in a really exquisite way the passing of time.
For the traditional closing number, Aida, the cast dresses this time in the costumes used for the 1913 staging of the opera.
The ones designed for Carmen's opening theme are also of great charm, inspired by colours and decorations of 19th century Spain.
35,000 liters of water, corresponding to about 1,600,000 ice cubes, are needed to build the 800 square meters ice rink inside the Arena.
Building up all of this takes 700 man-hours, plus the incredible amount of work required to unfreeze the ice at the end of the event. No Zamboni is allowed to enter inside the ancient monument: all the resurfacing and maintenance work must be handmade for several days, including covering the ice with thermal material every few hours, to prevent it from melting under the warm Italian sun. We ask one of the technicians why they don't keep the show for more than one date, considering how much work is needed. "To be able to build everything, we have to keep the Arena occupied for several days", he answers, "and then, the day after the show we will be here in the early morning to dismantle the ice rink, in order to allow the staging of the next show... we can't really stop the Arena Festival for more days! Everything has to work", he continues looking at the sky, concerned about the clouds threatening rain, "and we will have just one try."
"A success ready to go across national borders"
"So much work, so much effort, some difficulty... but the satisfaction, joy and magic of this evening is unmatched", tells Carolina to thank the whole cast and the organizers at the end of the show, which received once again a huge response from the audience.
"The whole experience for me was just amazing, unbelievable", Eric tells us. "I had one of the best times of my life there; it was one of the most amazing experiences to perform - not only in that venue, but with the live orchestra. And with the crowd... you know, during our 'Carmen' number when everybody started clapping it was something that I will never ever forget."
"I've never missed an appointment with 'Opera on Ice', which I consider the most exciting show that I've seen so far at the Arena", comments the Mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi.
After the big success of the first three editions, all sold out with over 12,000 spectators, organizers are now considering proposals to export the show outside Italy: "This is a unique event and we believe that it deserves even wider exposure and international visibility", tells Giulia Mancini, one of the creators of Opera on Ice, "We are evaluating some proposals and we look forward to announcing some news about it."
Opera on Ice 2013 will be broadcast by Italian channel Canale 5 at Christmas, and a DVD will be released after a few days. Check out the official site for upcoming news.
P.S. Don't miss our behind the scenes gallery here.