I have been listening to this all morning: the dark-hued, gorgeous Radvan’s O patria mia:
AIDA — Qui Radamès verrà… Che vorrà dirmi?
Io tremo… Ah! se tu vieni
A recarmi, o crudel, l’ultimo addio,
Del Nilo i cupi vortici
Mi daran tomba… e pace forse… e oblio.
O cieli azzurri… o dolci aure native
Dove sereno il mio mattin brillò…
O verdi colli… o profumate rive…
O patria mia, mai più ti rivedrò!
O fresche valli… o queto asil beato
Che un dì promesso dall’amor mi fu…
Ahime! d’amore il sogno è dileguato…
O patria mia, non ti vedrò mai più!
Complete libretto with English translation here.
Yes, the opening night of the new COC Aida is finally upon us. This has been a year of konzept Aidas, it seems: McVicar did his at the ROH (the old Opera magazine hated every bit of it, other reviews varied in support but not in passionate engagement) and the Basel opera is currently showing Calixto Bieito‘s version which is causing even more uproar (video featurette about the production here). From what I could see at the ORCA rehearsal — and I will have a clearer idea of it when I see it later this month — Toronto’s own new Aida may prove to be the most accomplished staging of the three innovative Aidas this year. Together with the pyramids, pharaohs, elephants, Liz Taylor Cleopatra whigs, gone is the most abrasive spectacle too. One doesn’t need litres of bloods splattered on white shirts to illustrate carnage. Genocide can be most chillingly made present by making visible its bureaucratic and procedural sides; horror of a witness by her silence rather than cries.
You don’t need all manner of devilfolk, burning fires and the nine rings to summon Hell: you can lock three people in a room with no exit, and the horror will be much worse. The 20th Century for Dummies, page 12.
In this Aida, the Egyptian society is an authoritarian regime resembling military junta-run states between 50s-70s, could be Southern Europe, could be Southern America, could be Middle East, and it might as well be the ur-Southern-climate junta, Mussolini’s Italy. The costumes are more in the 50s-60s range, the era that the reliably silly Mad Men glamourize so much. (In fact, the 50-60s were an era of military dictatorships and the fashion as prone to kitschy glitz and overdoing it as the square 80s. Thank you, Tim Albery‘s Aida, for this much needed reminder.)
To illustrate how big (and welcome) a departure this Aida is from the well-trodden ways, compare the above image with Jill Grove in the famous Chorus & Amneris scene ‘Chi mai fra gl’inni e i plausi’ and the Dance of the Moorish Slaves, with the more traditional staging of it:
The people of Aida’s patria, on the other hand, have things in common with the international forces in the Spanish Civil War — a group of people fighting injustice and a much more powerful and wealthier opponent. The kind Ken Loach portrayed in Land and Freedom:
Bottom line: I can’t wait to see this Aida. Watch this space for more Aida unpacking, and to the COC: all legs broken tonight.
Conductor: Johannes Debus / Derek Bate
Director: Tim Albery
Set Designer: Hildegard Bechtler
Aida: Sondra Radvanovsky / Michele Capalbo
Radames: Rosario La Spina
Amneris: Jill Grove
Amonasro: Scott Hendricks