Aida, Opera by G. Verdi
When Giuseppe Verdi received a commission for an opera from Isma’il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, he knew he had to deliver something epic. The task, backed up by 150 thousand francs, was to compose a dramatic work for the inauguration of the newly built Khedivial Opera House in Cairo. The fruit of Verdi’s efforts would be Aida, one of the most often performed and highly regarded operas in the classical catalogue. Even though the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 prevented the original premiere from going forward and the venue was opened with a performance of Rigoletto, the setback was only temporary. Aida finally saw its debut at the spectacular Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24 December 1871, and it took the world by storm from there. Teatro Costanzi in Rome pays tribute to one of the greatest operas this season.
To match the grand occasion and to please his commissioner, Verdi opted for an epic story from the Old Kingdom of Egypt. He recruited Antonio Ghislanzoni to craft an Italian libretto around a narrative many ascribe to the egyptologist Auguste Mariette. The stage designs and the costumes were among the most advanced for their time, meticulously crafted in Paris. On top of the engaging plot and the elaborate staging came Verdi’s score, which features some of the most recognisable arias and choruses in the operatic canon, including some truly innovative writing for the mezzo-soprano, a voice that had hitherto been often neglected.
The plot of Aida is based on an incendiary love triangle: the Egyptian commander Radamès has led his armies to victory and captured the Ethiopian princess Aida; she, in turn, has captured his heart, forcing him to choose between his feelings and his loyalty to the King of Egypt. To make the situation even more complicated, the King’s daughter, Princess Amneris, is in love with Radamès, although he never returned her feelings. War, politics, and love mix together into an explosive cocktail, and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma will show the resolution in all its glory this season.