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UPDATE 5:20: A spokeswoman for the Atlanta Opera just called to say Mary Elizabeth Williams WILL sing Aida tonight.

High drama continues for the Atlanta Opera‘s “Aida.” Read ArtsCriticATL’s opening night review here.

The scheduled title character, soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams (top photo), is reportedly feeling better after a sinus infection forced her to cancel Saturday’s opening night, just two hours before curtain. It would have been her first time singing the role.

As of noon today, she’s still a question mark. She had a voice lesson (over the phone) with her teacher, and saw an ear-nose-throat doctor this morning — a local physician who specializes in opera singers. If Williams’ vocal cords are healthy and she’s psychologically prepared to sing her debut Aida, she’ll be onstage tonight.

But, just in case, the opera flew in Angela Brown (above) late yesterday. An accomplished Verdi soprano, Brown sang a strong Leonora (in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”) last season in Atlanta and has sung Aida at the Metropolitan Opera several times. She’s also a favorite Aida at the Paris Opera.

Brown will have a costume fitting today, rehearse briefly with conductor Yoel Levi this afternoon, walk through the blocking at 5 o’clock and be prepared to sing tonight’s performance at 7:30.

Atlanta Opera general director Dennis Hanthorn, reached just before noon today, said he’s optimistic that Mary Elizabeth Williams will take the stage tonight, as originally planned. But, he added, “there’s a lot of pressure on her: she wants to sing her first Aida well, and she doesn’t want to damage her vocal cords. That’s a consideration we all take very seriously.”

For Saturday’s performance, Indra Thomas was brought in as the “cover” soprano — a one-time substitution, since she departed Atlanta this morning for concerts in Brazil.

After the decision was made that Thomas would sing, Hanthorn said he went to reassure Williams. “I told her, ‘We need to think long term,'” Hanthorn said. “Some singers think if they have to cancel that they’ll never be hired again. I told her that this will have no effect on our future performances together.”

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