Monday, March 3, 2014

Aida by Verdi

What does opera mean to you? Maybe it calls to mind portly men and plump women in elaborate costume belting out lyrics in a language you don’t understand. Maybe these not-altogether untrue characteristics have kept you away from listening to opera. That is a mistake. There are few forms of music that are as powerful, as moving, and as thrilling as the grand spectacle of an opera. Even without seeing the sets and costumes, stunning as they may be, or even understanding the language, the richness of a full orchestra and those insanely talented singers rings to your core and fills your soul.

Unfortunately the opera, though by no means dead, is not so prevalent in this day and age. Fortunately, centuries past have left for us countless classics that are still much loved and played on stage. One of these is Aida, written by Giuseppe Verdi and performed in 1871. You would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling, heart-wrenching love story than that of the title character Aida and her Radames. Aida is a slave in Egypt, who is secretly an Ethiopian princess, and Radames is the Egyptian general who is in love with her. Egypt and Ethiopia are at war, and to complicate things further, the Egyptian princess Amneris is also in love with Radames. When Radames comes home from war a hero, the king of Egypt gives him permission to marry his daughter and be future king, but of course he only has eyes for Aida. When Amneris and her father see Radames with her, the enemy, they call the guards. Aida urges him to run, but he surrenders to the guards out of honor. Amneris regrets allowing her jealousy to implicate Radames and wants him to deny the accusations, but now that he has heard Aida was able to escape, he submits willingly to his punishment of being sealed alive in a tomb. Only after he is locked in, he sees Aida, who stole into the tomb, ready to die with her love. In one of the most beautiful lines of the opera, she sings to him:

My heart foresaw your condemnation.
Secretly I made my way to the tomb opened for you.
And here far from every human gaze,
in your arms I wish to die. 

Birgit Nilsson as Aida
Franco Corelli as Radames

Aida is a powerful, soulful piece of work whose emotional charge has not diminished over centuries. Opera is still relevant today as ever, if you just give it the chance and listen with an open heart.

 -Elizabeth Coluccio

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