Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Majestic 'Aida' at Cineplex on Sunday

Published:Friday | September 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Roberto Alagana as Radames
Olga Borodina sings the role of Pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris.

A huge favourite with audiences worldwide, including Jamaica, Verdi's Aida with its magnificent music and pageantry has long been hailed as the "grandest of all grand operas".

It is a fitting denouement to the Met's 2015 Summer Encore season, giving fans a chance to once again bask in what is arguably Verdi's best creation.

Aida, an Ethiopian princess (played by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska), is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, (sung by tenor Roberto Alagna), struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh.

To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris (sung by Olga Borodina), although he does not return her feelings.

This moving tale of forbidden love is also an intensely personal love story teeming with passions relatable to any period in time.

Verdi was first commissioned to write the opera for performance in January 1871 by Isma'il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, who paid him 150,000 francs, but the premiere was delayed because of the Franco-Prussian War. Metastasio's libretto Nitteti (1756) was a major source of the plot.

Contrary to popular belief, Aida was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, nor that of the Khedivial Opera House (which opened with Verdi's Rigoletto) in the same year. Although Verdi had been asked to compose an ode for the opening of the canal, he declined on the grounds that he did not write "occasional pieces".

Aida met with great acclaim when it finally opened in Cairo on December 24, 1871. The costumes and accessories for the premiere were designed by Auguste Mariette. He also oversaw the design and construction of the sets, which were created in Paris.

Although Verdi did not attend the premiere in Cairo, he was most dissatisfied with the fact that the audience consisted of invited dignitaries, politicians and critics, but no members of the general public. He, therefore, considered the Italian (and European premiere), held at La Scala, Milan, on February 8, 1872, and in which he was heavily involved at every stage, to be its authentic premiere.

Aida was also received with great enthusiasm at its Milan premiere and was soon mounted at major opera houses throughout Italy.

The opera has been adapted for motion pictures on several occasions, most notably in a 1953 production which starred Lois Maxwell and Sophia Loren and a 1987 Swedish production. In both cases, the lead actors lip-synced to recordings by actual opera singers.

The opera's story, but not its music, was used as the basis for a 1998 musical of the same name written by Elton John and Tim Rice.