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.
Here are some more of the stage elements for Aida in storage on the Piazza Bra, with the Arena in the background.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now they are setting up the first of four metal towers, and bolting it into place.
Here two of them are still bolting the first tower to the base, while the rest of the crew sets up the second tower.
Now they have all four towers in place, and the crane is bringing in the top of the pyramid.
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.
Here one of the men has climbed up one of the towers, which is swaying precariously.
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.
Here the crane is bringing in one of the long corner sections of the pyramid.
Now they are bolting the first corner section into place.
Here they are positioning the second corner section.
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.
And now the third corner piece is dangling from the crane, on its way in.
Here they are positioning the third corner section, so they can bolt it down.
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.
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.