Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast: Aida 

Saturday, April 15, 2017, 12:30 P.M. (ET)

Broadcast Aida hdl 417
Soloman Howard as the King in Act II of Aida
© Johan Elbers
The 2016–17 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored 
by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®, with generous long-term 
support from The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation, 
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-baritone, JAMES MORRIS 
Radamès  tenor, RICCARDO MASSI 
Amneris  mezzo, VIOLETA URMANA 
Aida  soprano, KRASSIMIRA STOYANOVA 
King  bass, SOLOMAN HOWARD  
Messenger  tenor, RONALD NALDI 
Priestess  mezzo, JENNIFER JOHNSON CANO 
Amonasro  baritone, GEORGE GAGNIDZE 
Solo dancers  JENNIFER CADDEN 
  SCOTT WEBER  
Conducted by DANIELE RUSTIONI

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera Ballet

Production: Sonja Frisell
Set designer: Gianni Quaranta
Costume designer: Dada Saligeri
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler
Choreographer: Alexei Ratmansky
Stage director: Stephen Pickover
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Donna Racik, Steven Eldredge,
Pierre Vallet, Joshua Greene

Assistant stage directors: Jonathon Loy,
J. Knighten Smit

Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Prompter: Donna Racik
Italian coach: Loretta Di Franco

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

Revival a gift of the Estate of Francine Berry
 
THE CAST  
Timings (ET)
  (Ancient Egypt)   
ACT I                                                  12:30–1:17 
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    1:50–2:33 
Sc. 1  Amneris’s apartments in the palace at Thebes    
Sc. 2  A public square   
ACT III    Banks of the Nile  3:09–  
ACT IV    –4:25 
Sc. 1   Forecourt of the hall of judgment    
Sc. 2  Outside the hall of judgment    
Sc. 3  Tomb below the temple    
  
 
Host: Mary Jo Heath
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Ellen Keel, John Bischoff,
William Berger

Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni, Elena Park
 

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.

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.

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 twelve-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). Olga Borodina's Amneris steals the show on Nikolaus Harnoncourt's eccentric reading (Teldec).

On DVD, chorus, orchestra and principals, among them Violeta Urmana, Johan Botha, Carlo Guelfi and Dolora Zajick, are in good form in a 2009 HD transmission of the Met's current Aida production, led by Daniele Gatti (Decca). Luciano Pavarotti and Margaret Price are a stately, golden-voiced pair of lovers in San Francisco Opera's Aida from 1981 (Kultur). Adam Fischer leads Zurich Opera's persuasive Aida with Nina Stemme and Salavatore Licitra well-cast as Aida and Radamès (Bel Air). A 1958 telecast of Act III captures Price in her early glory (VAI). spacer 

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