Thursday, June 27, 2013

San Francisco Opera: Verdi's Aïda

In this San Francisco Opera’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi's “Aïda,” Luciano Pavarotti is Radamès, captain of the guard, and Margaret Price is Aïda, an Ethiopian princess captured into slavery; it is conducted by Garcia Navarro. This video is taken from the 1981 San Francisco production directed by Sam Wanamaker.

The four-act opera, set in ancient Egypt, was first performed in Cairo, Egypt, on December 24, 1871; it was an immediate success. It opened at Milan’s famed Teatro Regio di Parma on April 20, 1872, and at New York’s Academy of Music on November 26, 1873. [A synopsis can be found here.].

Consider the following from Act 1:
In ancient Egypt, near the royal palace at Memphis, Radamès learns from the high priest, Ramfis, that Ethiopia soon may bring war to the Nile valley. The young officer hopes he will be chosen as commander of the army, envisioning triumph so he can free his beloved Aida, Ethiopian slave of the proud Princess Amneris. Amneris, who herself loves Radamès, jealously senses his feelings for Aida when the three meet. A procession led by the King arrives to confirm that the Ethiopians are advancing on Thebes. He appoints the jubilant Radamès as Egyptian commander, at which shouts of victory fill the air. Left alone, Aida is torn between her love for Radamès and for her native land: though now a slave, she is in fact the daughter of Amonasro, king of Ethiopia. She prays to the gods for mercy.
The tensions are palpable, revealing the human emotions where the leading characters are torn between love of an individual and love of a nation, one an act of individual liberty and desire, another an act of patriotism and duty. It’s an ancient tension, pulling at us, which makes for good drama and great opera.There is redemption in the end, of a classical traditional nature, which some might find rewarding. I find it moving and human.

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