With its fascination for Egypt, 19th century Europe seems to have embarked on an intoxicating voyage down the Nile, marvelling at the colours of that great river and of the Egyptian sky, rediscovering monuments that are not so much palaces and towns but enigmatic sanctuaries of both the genius and the folly of humanity. Aida is one of the most celebrated examples of this "Egyptomania" albeit one of the most contradictory: commissioned by Ismail Pasha, the project of a work to be performed in honour of the inauguration of the Suez Canal was initially rejected by Verdi. However, a second commission for an operatic work to be performed in the new theatre in Cairo was later, somewhat condescendingly, accepted. Verdi had no inclination for exoticism and any concessions were, for him, out of the question. This opera, intended as a celebration of universal concord and harmony between nations with all the pomp and ceremony appropriate to such solemn occasions, is in fact entirely about conflict: the war between Egypt and Ethiopia is nothing compared to that which opposes the characters to each other. Their bloody confrontations give way, in turn, to the conflict within each individual. A work both flamboyant and hieratic, spectacular and intimate, and one of Verdi's most beautiful masterpieces, Aida returns to the Paris Opera after more than half a century's absence.
Opéra Bastille - First performance on 10 October 2013 - 7:30PM
Ticket rates : 5€, 15€, 35€, 70€, 100€, 130€, 150€, 180€, 195€
Running time : 2H49 with one interval
Available seats for 15 OCTOBER : GALA AROP
Prices and reservations only for this date : 01 58 18 65 10
LIBRETTO BY ANTONIO GHISLANZONI AFTER AUGUSTE MARIETTE
|Olivier Py||Stage director|
|Pierre-André Weitz||Sets and costumes|
|Patrick Marie Aubert||Chorus master|
Robert Dean Smith
Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(A) (10, 15, 25 OCTOBER, 2, 9, 14 NOVEMBER)
(B) (12, 20, 29 OCTOBER, 6, 12, 16 NOVEMBER)
(C) (10, 12, 15, 20, 29 OCTOBER, 2, 6, 9, 12, 14 et 16 NOVEMBER)
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Born in 1813 at Roncole, a hamlet not far from Busseto, Guiseppe Verdi composed approximately thirty operas: Nabucco, Ernani, Attila, Luisa Miller, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, I Vespri Siciliani, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo, Aida, Otello and Falstaff are among the best known. He was also the composer of a Messa da requiem. He gradually relinquished classical bel canto in favour of a more dramatic form of vocal expression; his final works saw the disappearance of recitative in favour of continuous musical discourse.
As early as 1869, the khedive of Egypt, Ismaïl Pacha, had hoped to commission a work from Verdi to celebrate the inauguration of the Suez Canal. The project came to nothing but a year later, Camille du Locle, director of the Opéra Comique in Paris and librettist of Don Carlo, sent Verdi a scenario conceived by the celebrated Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. This time, Verdi accepted. Du Locle first wrote a prose libretto in French. Antonio Ghislanzoni, with whom Verdi had worked on the revised version of La Forza del Destino, was asked to turn it into verse. Auguste Mariette designed the sets and costumes, thus guaranteeing the historical authenticity of the production. The work was first performed at the new opera house in Cairo in 1871. The action takes place at the time of the pharaohs and tells the story of Radames, an Egyptian general, who scorns the love of the king’s daughter in favour of Aida, a young slave who, unbeknown to him, is the daughter of the king of Ethiopia, the mortal enemy of the king of Egypt. For love of her, Radames betrays his country and is condemned to be buried alive. Aida follows him into his tomb and dies with him. Famous above all for its celebrated triumphal march, heralded by the sound of the no less celebrated trumpets, Aida is generally considered as the archetype (or even the caricature) of the spectacular grand opera, with its monumental, exotic decors. The work was, however, conceived as a series of intimate scenes, a drama in which love strives against jealousy, duty, honour and betrayal. Aida confirms Verdi’s departure, begun in Don Carlos, from conventional operatic writing with its succession of arias, cabalettas and duets detached from the action. Chronologically, Aida is situated between the first version of Don Carlos (1867), the revisions of La Forza del Destino (1867) and the Messa da requiem (1874). After Aida, audiences were to wait more than fifteen years, and the first performance of Otello in 1887 at La Scala in Milan, for a new opera by Verdi.
The first performance
Aida was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24th December 1871. The European premier took place at La Scala, Milan on February 8th 1872, with a few corrections made by Verdi himself, including the elimination of the overture.
The work at the Paris Opera
Aida was first performed in Paris in 1876 at the Italian Theatre of the Salle Ventadour. It was sung in Italian and conducted by Verdi. The work entered the repertoire of the Paris Opera Garnier on 22nd March 1880 in a French version by Camille du Locle and Charles Nuitter, conducted by Verdi himself and directed by Régnier and Mayer. It was for this occasion that the celebrated Aida trumpets, natural trumpets 120cm in length, were developed by the instrument maker Sax. This production was to enjoy repeated revivals until 1933. In 1939, Pierre Chéreau was entrusted with the task of directing a new production. Sax’s trumpets were abandoned at this point in favour of more modern instruments developed by Couesnon. Chéreau’s production remained on the bill until 1968 when Leontyne Price performed the title role. The work has never been performed here since.