Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Aida 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, March 3, 1:00 P.M.

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A scene from Aida at the Met: at the public square in Thebes, Radamès returns in triumph from battle with the Ethiopians (Johan Botha as Radamès, Dolora Zajick as Amneris, Štefan Kocán as the King, Urmana, Carlo Guelfi as Amonasro)
© Beth Bergman 2012

 

The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation and 
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media, 
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Aida

Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
Ramfis     bass, JAMES MORRIS
Radamès     tenor, MARCELLO GIORDANI
Amneris     mezzo, STEPHANIE BLYTHE
Aida     soprano, LATONIA MOORE
King     bass, JORDAN BISCH
Messenger     tenor, ADAM
     LAURENCE HERSKOWITZ
Priestess     soprano, LORI GUILBEAU
Amonasro     baritone, LADO ATANELI
                          CHRISTINE McMILLAN
­Solo dancers { ROBERT COLBY DAMON

Conducted by MARCO ARMILIATO

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Sonja Frisell
Set designer: Gianni Quaranta
Costume designer: Dada Saligeri
Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky
Stage director: Stephen Pickover
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Donna Racik,
     J. David Jackson, Howard Watkins,
     Liora Maurer
Assistant stage directors: David Kneuss,
     J. Knighten Smit
Prompter: Donna Racik
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

The revival of this production is
     gratefully dedicated to the memory of
     James C. Slaughter, a Managing Director of
     the Metropolitan Opera from 1994 to 2009.
THE SCENES  (Ancient Egypt) Timings 
ACT I   1:00-1:45
    Sc. 1 Antechamber in the
    palace at Memphis
 
    Sc. 2 Throne room in the
    palace
 
    Sc. 3 Antechamber in the
    palace
 
    Sc. 4 Temple of Ptah  
ACT II   2:16–2:58
    Sc. 1 Amneris's apartments in
    the palace at Thebes
 
    Sc. 2 Public square  
ACT III Banks of the Nile  3:30–
ACT IV   –4:42
    Sc. 1 Forecourt of the hall
    of judgment
 
    Sc. 2 Outside the hall of
    judgment
 
    Sc. 3 Tomb below the
    temple
 

 Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.

THE STORY 

ACT I. In the royal palace at Memphis, Radamès, a young captain of the guard, learns from the high priest, Ramfis, that Ethiopia threatens the Nile valley. Left alone, Radamès hopes to be chosen to command the Egyptian army, envisioning a glorious victory so he can free his beloved Aida, slave of Amneris, the King's daughter. Amneris, who loves Radamès, appears and questions him; she senses his feelings for Aida, especially as the slave enters. In the throne room, the King receives a Messenger who confirms that the Ethiopian army is marching on Thebes. The King announces Radamès's appointment as commander and leads the assemblage in a battle hymn. "Return victorious!" cries Amneris, echoed by the people. Radamès is led off amid general rejoicing, and Aida is left alone, appalled that she too has cheered him to victory, for she is in fact a princess of Ethiopia. Torn by conflicting loyalties, she prays for pity.

In the temple of Ptah, a Priestess addresses the deity, as Radamès is ceremonially clothed in sacred armor. Ramfis consecrates Radamès's sword for the campaign.

ACT II. Radamès has defeated the Ethiopians, and in preparation for his return, Amneris is being groomed by slaves and diverted by dancers. At Aida's approach, she dismisses her other attendants and, to confirm her suspicions, tells Aida that Radamès has died in battle, then that he still lives. Convinced by Aida's reactions that her slave does love Radamès, Amneris threatens her and leaves as Aida reiterates her prayer.

At a public square in Thebes, a crowd welcomes the returning army, which passes before the King and Amneris. Radamès arrives, and Amneris salutes his victory. The captured Ethiopians are led in; among them Aida recognizes her father, Amonasro. He warns her in an aside not to betray his rank, then pleads for his fellow prisoners' lives. Ramfis and the priests demand the captives' death, but Radamès requests their freedom as his reward. The King releases all but Amonasro, then presents Radamès with Amneris's hand, leaving Aida in despair.

ACT III. On a moonlit bank of the Nile, Ramfis leads Amneris into a temple of Isis for her wedding vigil. Aida comes to wait secretly for Radamès. Overcome with nostalgia, she laments her conquered homeland. Amonasro, still determined to save his people, startles her out of her reverie and commands her to trick Radamès into revealing the Egyptian army's intended route into Ethiopia. He shames and threatens her until she reluctantly agrees. Amonasro hides as Radamès appears, promising to make Aida his bride after his next victory. She suggests they run away together, asking what road they should take to avoid his army. No sooner has he revealed the Egyptians' plans than Amonasro emerges from his hiding place and divulges his identity as King of Ethiopia. Leaving the temple, Amneris finds the three and denounces Radamès as a traitor. Amonasro lunges at her with a dagger, but Radamès shields her and surrenders himself, as Aida and her father escape.

ACT IV. When Radamès is led into the hall of judgment, Amneris offers to save him if he will renounce Aida; he refuses. Enraged, Amneris lets him go to his doom. Listening as the priests' demands that he defend himself are met with silence, Amneris feels her pride falling away, and her love for Radamès is revealed by her agony in hearing him condemned by the priests, whom she curses.

Radamès, buried alive in a crypt beneath the temple, turns his last thoughts to Aida, who emerges from the shadows, having entered the vault earlier to share his fate. Radamès tries vainly to dislodge the stone that locks them in. Bidding farewell to earth, the lovers greet eternity, as Amneris, in the temple above, prays to Isis for peace.

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At the temple of Ptah, Amneris grieves as Radamès and Aida pledge their love to one another within the tomb below.
© Beatriz Schiller 2012

THE BACKGROUND 

Aida offers some surprising throwbacks to the Verdi of early years. There is even an old-fashioned blood-and-thunder cabaletta for the lovers in the Nile scene, though such other moments as "Ritorna vincitor!" and "O patria mia" have a structural fluency and melodic thrust characteristic of Verdi, but few others, in the 1870s.

Like the much earlier Les Vêpres Siciliennes and the just preceding Don Carlos, Aida is a French-style grand opera, conceived to present its central plot against a festive background of chorus and double chorus, ballet and large-scale ensemble. But Aida never loses sight of its personal core, nor does it insist on opening and closing each act with an explosion of color.

One of the largest commission fees of all time brought Verdi out of quasi-retirement to collaborate with his friend Camille du Locle on Aida. Though he had refused an invitation to compose a consecration hymn for the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi was intrigued with the du Locle scenario upon which Antonio Ghislanzoni based his libretto. Both men owe the story to Auguste Mariette, who according to some sources based his scenario on a historical incident. It took Verdi fifteen months to complete the score. After a delay in the production's opening, caused by the Franco-Prussian War (the sets and costumes were trapped in Paris during the siege of that city), Aida had its premiere on December 24, 1871, at the new Cairo Opera House.

The piece surfaced in New York at the Academy of Music in late 1873, arriving at the Met in German in 1886, with Victor Herbert's wife, Therese Herbert-Förster, in the title role. The current Met production was unveiled on December 8, 1988, with James Levine conducting Leona Mitchell and Plácido Domingo.

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Radamès and Aida pledge their love to one another within the tomb (Zajick, Botha, Urmana).
© Johan Elbers 2012

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's life of the composer (Oxford) and Julian Budden's The Operas of Verdi (Oxford) are indispensable. William Berger's Verdi with a Vengeance (Vintage) is also diverting reading, especially for newcomers to opera.

On CD, good Aidas are in plentiful supply. Leontyne Price was opera's dominant Aida for more than twenty years; her Rome Opera recording with Georg Solti (Decca) finds her in fresher vocal estate than on her later set, paced by Erich Leinsdorf (RCA), but both are first-rate performances. Callas's celebrated 1951 Mexico City Aida — with its interpolated seven-second high E-flat — is a thrilling document of the diva in prime voice (EMI). Renata Tebaldi's refulgent Aida heads Karajan's luxuriously cast 1959 performance (Decca).

On DVD, chorus, orchestra and principals, among them Aprile Millo, Plácido Domingo and Dolora Zajick, prove their mettle in a 1989 telecast of the Met's current Aida production, led by James Levine (DG). Adam Fischer leads Zurich Opera's persuasive Aida, with Nina Stemme and Salvatore Licitra well cast as Aida and Radamès (Bel Air). La Scala's staging fields Violeta Urmana, Ildikó Komlósi, Roberto Alagna and Carlo Guelfi, under the baton of Riccardo Chailly (Decca). Luciano Pavarotti and Margaret Price are a stately, golden-voiced pair of lovers in San Francisco Opera's Aida from 1981 (Kultur). A 1958 telecast of Act III captures Leontyne Price in her early glory (VAI). spacer 

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