Sunday, August 28, 2011

VERDI : AIDA

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 20th of December 2015 at 6.04 - 8.45 pm
Sunday 8th of February 2015 at 6.03 - 10 pm
Sunday 13th of January 2013 at 3.04 - 7 pm
Sunday 8th of April 2012 at 3.04 pm
Sunday 28th of August 2011 at 3.03 pm
Sunday 25th of April 2010 at 3.03 pm
Sunday 21st of December 2008 at 3 pm
Sunday 19th of August 2007 at 3 pm

VERDI: Aïda, an opera in four acts
Radamès, a young Egyptian military commander, and Aida, a captured Ethiopian slave, are in love with each other. This creates inner turmoil for them both. Radamès is torn between his love for Aida and his loyalty to the King of Egypt whose daughter Amneris is also in love with him; Aida is torn between her love for Radamès and her loyalty to her father, the Ethiopian King Amonasro.

2015
Aida.................................. Anja Harteros
Radamès........................... Jonas Kaufmann
Amneris............................ Ekaterina Semenchuk
Amonasro......................... Ludovic Tézier
Ramfis.............................. Erwin Schrott
King of Egypt.................. Marco Spotti
Messenger......................... Paolo Fanale
High Priestess................... Eleonora Buratto
St Cecilia National Academy Chorus & Orch/Antonio Pappano  
(Warner 0825 646106639)
This is a prizewinning recording.
REVIEW (Guardian)
REVIEW (Gramophone)
INTRODUCTION
SYNOPSIS
LIBRETTO2015
Aida.................................. Tamara Wilson
King of Egypt.................. Soloman Howard
Amneris............................ Violeta Urmana
Radamès........................... Marcello Giordani
Amonasro......................... George Gagnidze
Ramfis.............................. Dmitry Belosselskiy
Messenger......................... Eduardo Valdes
High Priestess................... Jennifer Check
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato

The New York Metropolitan Opera has staged this spectacle regularly, and so we have good study guides, but these are no longer on open access! (Placido Domingo is pictured in the STORYLINE presentation, from 1988). The two background essays give a good summary of ancient Egyptian culture (a subject I used to tell students about). The writer argues for a setting in the Old Kingdom (around 2500 BCE, the time of the great pyramids), but the presence of Ethiopians should put it long after that (there were Ethiopic rulers over Egypt). Anyway, it is fictional, and an idea of the French archaeologist Mariette. The names are Greek forms of Egyptian originals. The capital city is given as Memphis, in northern ("Lower" not "Upper") Egypt, with its chief god Ptah (pronounce every letter, please).

The question of the occasion of composition is a hot potato. In this regard, I remember a Saturday night in 1962-3, in Victor Harbor (South Australia), at the local music club, when a question was asked: What did Verdi's opera Aida commemorate? I rushed in with the answer I had seen on the back of a record cover: 'the opening of the Suez Canal' (I have been there since then, and I went under it in a bus). 'No', said the lady quizmaster (Mrs Overall, wife of the local undertaker), 'the opening of the Cairo Opera House'. I muttered that I thought they coincided. The Oxford Dictionary of Opera states: "Aida was not, as generally supposed, written for the opening of the Suez Canal (1869), but was commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt to open the new Cairo Opera House the same year". In the event, Aida missed the bus or the boat, and the first performance was on the 24th of December 1871 in Cairo (Verdi was absent), and the season at La Scala in Milan began on 8th of February 1872. The delay was caused allegedly by Verdi's interest not being fully aroused until someone suggested Wagner might like to do it (see below), and second by the Franco-Prussian war preventing the scenery and costumes from leaving Paris.

Let's consider some facts about the origins of Aida (from Charles Osborne’s handbook on the operas of Verdi, 1969, 371-382). It is derived from a libretto by Metastasio. Truly. Pietro Metastasio’s Nitteti (based on stories in Herodotos and Diodorus of Sicily) shares these details with Aida: triumphal pageant; two royal women loving the same man (Nitteti is equivalent to Amneris); the hero’s rejection of one of the unloved woman’s attempt to save his life; the threat of death by entombment (but this has a happy ending). More than ten composers set it to music in the 18th century.

Now, the Aida libretto arose from a story by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette (who knew about the wars between Egypt and Ethiopia, and the setting of his tale is correctly around 1000 before the current era); but his brother Edouard claimed it was stolen from a novel he had drafted in 1866. Anyway, Mariette suggested to the Khedive (the title used by the viceroy of Egypt in the time of Turkish rule, 1867-1914) that it could be made into an opera to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. The Khedive agreed that Verdi should be offered it first, then Gounod and Wagner. The rumour that Verdi was not interested till this rivalry provoked him into action, might not be true.

Certainly, Verdi had retired after Don Carlo(s), and would need persuasion (after Aida, his masterworks Otello and Falstaff had to be dragged out of him by Boito). Camille Du Locle, of the Paris Opéra, had been trying unsuccessfully to interest Verdi in composing another French opera for his theatre, and he sent a four-page synopsis of the ancient Egyptian opera to Verdi, who liked it and accepted the challenge; Du Locle wrote the libretto in French; Verdi insisted on Italian, and he hired Antonio Ghislanzoni for the task; he himself made many suggestions and even wrote some of the text (the last scene).

Osborne rejects both of the oft-cited connections, that Aida was created to inaugurate the Suez Canal or the Cairo opera house: the canal opened in November 1869, before Verdi had even seen Du Socle’s synopsis (in the spring of 1870); the opera house had already been launched with a performance of Rigoletto on the 1st of November 1869.

However, the connections still stand if we go back to Mariette and the Khedive: apparently the idea they had was to make an opera out of his story for the opening of the canal and presumably also for the new opera house, and Verdi was the composer they had in mind (and he was the right person, rather than Gounod or Wagner). He definitely was commissioned to compose Aida for the Cairo Opera House, within the last six months of 1871, and he did.

Aida did not appear in Paris till 1876, and not at the Opéra but at the Théâtre Italien.

Well, I have seen this one in the movies a few times. Sophia Lauren played the Ethiopian princess (covered in Kiwi boot polish), in a print that had been around the world before it reached the Regent cinema theatre in Palmerston North, perhaps passing through the priestly censoring in Cinema Paradiso. It had hundreds of cuts and splices, and the continual breaks in the flow of the music were disconcerting. But my earliest acquaintance with Aida was when she was buried alive with Mario Lanza (as Radamès) in The Great Caruso.

Denis Forman (The Good Opera Guide) sees this 'enjoyable' opera as 'Verdi at the zenith of his power', and he awards it A+ (alpha-plus).


Sunday 13th of January 2013 at 3.04 - 7 pm
Aida............................. Liudmyla Monastyrska
King of Egypt.............. Miklos Sebestyén
Amneris....................... Olga Borodina
Radamès...................... Roberto Alagna
Amonasro.................... George Gagnidze
Ramfis......................... Stefan Kocán
Messenger.................... Hugo Vera
High Priestess.............. Jennifer Check
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Fabio Luisi
Sunday 8th of April 2012 at 3.04 pm
Aida………………….. Latonia Moore
Radamès……………... Marcello Giordani
Amneris……………… Stephanie Blythe
The King…………….. Jordan Bisch
Amonasro……………. Lado Ataneli
Ramfis……………….. James Morris
Messenger…………… Adam Lawrence Herskowitz
High Priestess……….. Lori Guilbeau
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato
Sunday 28th of August 2011 at 3.03 pm 
Aida.............................. Hui He
King of Egypt................ Roberto Tagliavini
Amneris........................ Luciana D'Intino
Radames....................... Marco Berti
Amonasro..................... Ambrogio Maestri
Ramfis........................... Giacomo Prestia
Messenger.................... Saverio Fiore
Voice of a Priestess....... Caterina Di Tonno
Florence May Festival Chorus & Orch/Zubin Mehta  
(recorded in the Teatro Comunale, Florence by Italian Radio)
Sunday 25th of April 2010 at 3.03 pm
VERDI: Aida, an opera in four acts
Aida.............................. Hui He
Amneris........................ Dolora Zajick
Radamès....................... Salvatore Licitra
Amonasro..................... Carlo Guelfi
Ramfis........................... Carlo Colombara
The King....................... Stefan Kocán
High Priestess................ Elizabeth DeShong
Messenger.................... Diego Torre
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Paolo Carignani
Sunday 21st of December 2008 at 3 pm
VERDI: Aida, an opera in four acts
Aida.............................. Mirella Freni
Radamès....................... José Carreras
Amneris........................ Agnes Baltsa
Amonasro..................... Piero Cappuccilli
Ramfis........................... Ruggero Raimondi
King of Egypt................ José van Dam
Messenger.................... Thomas Moser
Priestess........................ Katia Ricciarelli
Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic
Herbert von Karajan (EMI 3 81877)
This is the sumptuous splendiferous performance of Karajan. Having recently seen a documentary about him I have been playing his Beethoven recordings. His time working for the Nazi regime may have helped him direct parades of marching and pageantry. What is its Xmas message, I wonder. An opportunity to hear Carreras when his beautiful tenor voice was young, before his battle with cancer.

Sunday 19th of August 2007 at 3 pm
VERDI: Aida, an opera in four acts
Aida.............................. Violeta Urmana
Radamès....................... Roberto Alagna
Amneris........................ Ildiko Komiosi
Amonasro..................... Carlo Guelfi
Ramphis........................ Giorgio Giuseppini
King of Egypt................ Marco Spotti
Messenger.................... Antonello Ceron
Priestess........................ Sae Kyung Rim
La Scala Chorus & Orch/Riccardo Chailly
(recorded at La Scala, Milan in December 2006)
This is Franco Zeffirelli's lavish and spectacular production of Aida, after Riccardo Muti had given up the directorship of La Scala and had thus cleared the way for his harshest critic to return in triumph. Not exactly a cast of thousands, but three hundred fill the stage for the grand march scene. And this recording has caught Roberto Alagna before the night when he walked out because he was treated disrespectfully by the audience.

Obsolete Metropera stuff; it is a shame we can not have access to it any more
BACKGROUND
UNDERGROUND
FOREGROUND
COMPOSER
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE
ANALYSIS

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