Aïda is a strange opera.
It is an opera whose very creation has a history –
Commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal, it had to be performed in Egypt.
But Egypt at the time did not want common people in its opera: only dignitaries and the rich could attend.
When Verdi learned this, he was disgusted and did not like his Aida very much.
In order to make the setting perfect and perfectly respectful, the French archaeologist Mariette was put in charge.
Unfortunately, for the premiere, Mariette was stuck in Paris – yes, it was the great time of the Siege of Paris. The opera was supposed to be performed in January 1871 – it was performed in December 1871 – politics has always done major damage in the art world. Mariette was surely a great archaeologist – but he was not too brave. As time passed, he began to fear a complete failure of this opera that even Verdi did not like. So he asked to have his name removed from the poster.
It must be said that Aida is pure “general public”.
The scene takes place in Memphis, at the time of the Pharaohs.
The plot? is necessarily simple: an Ethiopian slave – but so beautiful: Aida; an Egyptian officer: Radames.
It would be easy, this love story, if only their two countries had not been at war.
A love story between enemies, that is what Aïda is.
Here is the epic dimension – ah yes the triumph of an army, the defeat of the other – put in scene by the MET that becomes … this :
If Aïda and Radames had both been anonymous, their love story might still have been possible.
Yes, but he will be the officer designated to lead the great army of Egypt against the Ethiopian army – led by Aida’s own father. She did not become a slave of Pharaon by chance, the beautiful Ethiopian.
Through Maria Callas, all that is heartbreaking about tragedy: to whom do we owe our loyalty? To the one you love? To your family? To your country? :
Here is the end – necessarily tragic… by Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Chiara :
This is the drama that is unfolding – it will go all the way to the end – like all tragedies, when love and politics are at stake, it is love that dies. It probably doesn’t have enough price.
Or perhaps it is to make us question our own choices, our own values, our own priorities?