Various humans, creatures to feature in "Aida"

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

I have previously reported on the casting call for buff extras for the Pittsburgh Opera's production of "Aida." Subsequent reports informed us that Franco Harris would be playing the Champion of Champions in one performance. In this latest release, the company delves even deeper into the various people, creatures and critters that will be gracing the stage for "Aida." That includes former Steeler Charlie Batch, who plays Champion of Champions in another performance. From the release:

Pittsburgh, PA...Pittsburgh Opera opens its 75th anniversary season with the grandest of all grand operas, Verdi's AIDA. On stage at the Benedum Center October 12 – 20, the spectacle of AIDA will be augmented by many special guests, both human and animal, in the opera's famous Triumphal Scene.

In addition to the previously-announced appearance of Franco Harris as "Champion of Champions" on October 18, AIDA audiences will also welcome Homestead native and Steelers great Charlie Batch in the non-singing role of Champion of Champions on October 12. Penguins color commentator Phil Bourque, "The Ol' Two-Niner," will appear in the same role on Sunday, October 20.

Other prominent features of the Triumphal Scene include over 100 supernumeraries (extras), chorus members, cast members, dancers, horses, a large hawk, an albino Burmese python, and greyhounds. In Egypt, the ancestors of modern greyhounds were used in hunting, and were considered honored members of the family. The canines are provided by the Wexford, PA-based non-profit, all-volunteer organization Going Home Greyhounds, which provides refuge, aid and care for retired racing greyhounds until they are placed in permanent homes. Audience members can meet retired greyhounds in the Benedum Center Lobby. Joining the greyhounds on stage are four-legged members of the Allegheny County Mounted Police Unit (in costume!) as part of the procession. Allegheny County representatives will also be in the Benedum Lobby to provide information about the Mounted Police Unit program. "Allegheny County is a big supporter of the arts and the arts are a big part of our strong economy," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "We were thrilled to be asked to participate in this production and are proud that our County Police Mounted Patrol Unit will be assisting the Pittsburgh Opera in celebrating its 75th anniversary."

The python and the hawk will be handled on stage by Grant Kemmerer of Wild World of Animals in Washington, PA. The nationally-known animal educator will appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on October 10.

Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn said, "We are excited that world-class opera will be bringing so many local entities together to celebrate our 75th anniversary season, not only at AIDA, but in other activities and events throughout the season."


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