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article imageOp-Ed: Canadian Opera Company's modern production of Verdi's 'Aida' Special

By Andrew Moran     Nov 6, 2010 in Entertainment
Toronto - The Canadian Opera Company (COC) had its last showing of the classic Giuseppe Verdi opera "Aida" last night in Toronto. Although the lead roles by Michele Capalbo and Rosario La Spina were divine, why did the COC modernize such an historic opera?
The story of “Aida” has been described as romantic, which is quite apparent after listening to one of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operatic achievements. Verdi, known as the Italian romanticist, wrote the four-act opera to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, which was based on a story by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.
“Aida” takes place in Egypt and surrounds the character Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is enslaved by the Egyptian leadership. Radames, a military commander and future king of Egypt, loves Aida but cannot make the choice: Do I follow my heart or obey my loyalty to my nation?
To make matters worse, Radames is loved by the king’s daughter, Amneris. She loves him, despite his love for Aida, until his death in the final act where he is entombed. She must also make either a repugnant decision that causes an inner conflict and anguish or a choice that would please the Greek God of Eros: Do I seek vengeance or do I help him because I love him? She chooses the former.
After being entombed alive, Radames sings a heart-wrenching aria begging and pleading with the Gods to ensure Aida is well. However, he finds that Aida is in the tomb with him where they share a passionate embrace.
“The fatal stone now closes over me,” Aida and Radames sing, “To die! So pure and lovely!"
At the end, Aida blows out a candle and the stage becomes aphotic. The audience roars in applause and the cast comes out. The three main characters, including Jill Grove, who brilliantly played Amneris, received the largest applause.
The music and the singing were truly phenomenal. Verdi is my esteemed and revered composer; “Otello,” “Macbeth,” “La Traviata” and even “Rigoletto” are in my top 10 list of personal favourites.
What is my only qualm with this performance? The COC’s production was neoteric, enervated, bland and uninspired. The COC modernized the story by placing it somewhere in the 1960s with suits, skirts, high-heels, handbags, sunglasses and scantily-clad dressed women who seemed to be sexually promiscuous (they even had a part where the women have sexual intercourse with the soldiers returning from battle).
It is possible that I’m old-fashioned and a prude but I’d much prefer the Egyptian-themed version of “Aida,” the opera that Verdi envisioned, the opera that has been adored by millions around the world since 1871.
A lady next to my lovely girlfriend was explaining to her mother during intermission that it is justifiable that they contemporized it because people don’t want to experience the same setting, the same costume design and the same show over and over again.
I have to respectfully disagree. My girlfriend and I go to the opera once a year but we are great admirers of the opera. When we listen to our CDs of “Aida,” “Eugene Onegin,” Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” and “L’elisir d’amore,” we want to be invigorated with what the composer and the librettist intended to show the audience.
The performance was impeccable. The opera performers, conductor Johannes Debus and the musicians deserved the standing ovation and calls of “bravi,” “brava,” and “bravo.” However, director Tim Albery, with all due respect, deserved the calls of displeasure he received on opening night.
Maybe the key to enjoying the COC’s production of “Aida,” is to follow the suggestion of Epoch Times writer Zoe Ackah: “The real key to watching COC’s Aida is to keep your eyes closed.”
In the next 25 years, when COC brings back “Aida,” will it be even more modernized? Will Aida be on Facebook? Will Radames be on his BlackBerry? Will Amneris be a “Desperate Housewives” character? Or will the COC bring back the true tale of love and tragedy?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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