Building the Aida stage set

The stage for Zeffirelli’s production of Verdi’s Aida in the Arena of Verona is dominated by two large statues of ancient Egyptian pharaohs (rulers), which between performances are stored out in front of the Arena on the Piazza Bra.

One of the statues for Aida

Aida stage elements on Piazza Bra

Here are some more of the stage elements for Aida in storage on the Piazza Bra, with the Arena in the background.

Egyptian symbols for the Aida stage

One of the statues dangling from the crane

On the day of the performance, all the statues and other large stage elements are lifted off of the Piazza Bra and into the Arena by a large crane.

Beginnings of the Aida stage set

If you visit the Arena on a day when Verdi’s Aida is scheduled to be performed, you can watch a crew of about twenty-five men and two women building up the stage set. In this photo, which I took from down by the orchestra pit, some of the golden foundation elements and three of the smaller statues are already in place.

The base of the pyramid

Now one of the large statues has already been lifted in, and they have started to assemble the base of the big revolving pyramid which is going to be in the center of the stage.

Half-finished stage set at lunch time

Here both of the large statues and all fourteen smaller statues have already been lifted into the Arena and set down in their proper places (by the crane that is visible at the top of the picture). There are no people in this photo because the crew members are inside having their lunch break.

The crew returns after lunch

Turning the pyramid base

After their lunch break, the crew has come back out to get to work building the pyramid. In this photo they are turning the base of the pyramid to get it into the proper position for further building. This is also the way they (or rather their colleagues on the night shift) will turn the finished pyramid between scenes during the performance of the opera. There is no electric motor.

Putting up the first tower

Now they are setting up the first of four metal towers, and bolting it into place.

Putting up the second tower

Here two of them are still bolting the first tower to the base, while the rest of the crew sets up the second tower.

Crane bringing the top of the pyramid

Now they have all four towers in place, and the crane is bringing in the top of the pyramid.

Attaching ropes

Here they are attaching ropes to the four corners of the pyramid top, so they will be able pull it into position when it is up at the top of the four towers.

Man on a swaying tower

Here one of the men has climbed up one of the towers, which is swaying precariously.

Putting the top in place

Now three men and one woman have climbed the four towers so they can bolt the pyramid top onto the towers as soon as it is in the proper position. There must have been lots of bolts, because it took them about half an hour to get them all tight.

Crane with first corner section

Here the crane is bringing in one of the long corner sections of the pyramid.

First corner section

Now they are bolting the first corner section into place.

Second corner section

Here they are positioning the second corner section.

Two corners finished

Two of the corner sections are already in place, and one of the men who was bolting down the top section is just now climbing down from his tower.

Transporting another corner piece

And now the third corner piece is dangling from the crane, on its way in.

Three corner pieces in place

Here they are positioning the third corner section, so they can bolt it down.

Stage with the half-built pyramid

Here’s what the stage looks like from the far side of the Arena, with the pyramid half-finished and all the statues in place.

Finished pyramid during the performance

Finally, here is a photo I took at night to show you what the finished pyramid looks like during the performance. This staging of Aida by Franco Zeffirelli made its debut in the Arena in 2002. Since then it has also been shown in the summers of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2018.

My photos in this post are from 2006. I revised the text in 2018.

See more posts on Verona, Italy.
See more posts on open-air performances.

4 thoughts on “Building the Aida stage set”

  1. Must be a long watch erecting such a large structure. And wow! its an amazing feet ….400 mark. Congratulations Don for your interest for travel, writing an inspiring us. Keep moving, keep blogging

  2. What intriguing photos. I saw the Aida props outside while in Vetona in July. The production of Nabucco I saw was wonderful.

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