#14. Boy meets girl is a classic basic plot. In modern day movies, a missed text, bad job, or family ties leads to a ninety minute contemplation if love can survive. Often cute, sometimes trite! Opera takes that same simplistic storyline and slaps it into a frenzy of dramatic passion. Never cute, always powerful!
The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents AIDA. Boy meets girl. Radames meets Aida. He is the King’s main guy. She is the princess’ slave. Despite the soldier meets slave imbalance, they secretly love each other. Complications arise when the Princess wants Radames for her husband. And daddy approves of the match. If that’s not trouble enough, during his recent conquest, Radames captured the King of Ethiopia. He is also Aida’s dad. The captured King wants Aida to coerce secrets from Radames to spur an uprising. Can love survive being on opposite sides of the war? Where can Aida and Radames go to live out their lives together? AIDA is not a simple boy meets girl plot. It’s an epic love story buried in emotional majesty.
This AIDA might be the most colorful spectacle that I’ve ever seen at the opera. Set and Costume Designer Pet Halmen fills the stage with an elaborately dressed ensemble. Royalty is in gold and white splendor. The council is in mauve robes with funky dome hats. Dancers are in pastel swirling silks. Guards are in black metal hardware. And the captured Ethiopians are blue-skinned with purple-blue-tie-dye strappings. This sea of hue is moving within a fortress of columns and oversize idols. At the end of Act 2, the gates of Thebes are a vibrant bi-level explosion of textures and color. The visual is incredible and barely describable.
But opera is about the audio. And AIDA is all about Aida! Sondra Radvanovsky makes her love known with an outstanding presence. Her clear and beautiful arias float out across the audience. The love declarations are responded to with ongoing thunderous applause and ‘bravas’! The target of her adoration is Marcello Giordani (Radames). Giordani commands the stage as the conquering hero. Later, his hopes for Aida’s safety charm with mi amore tenderness. Their final duet ‘O terra, addio’ is the stuff of unforgettable love stories. Their fervent devotion is bittersweet. The rejected Jill Grove (Amneris) doesn’t go quiet into the night. Instead, Grove sings a heartfelt vigil for love lost. Under the baton of Renato Palumbo, warring entities have never sounded more triumphant.
Verdi debuted his four act Italian opera in Cairo in 1871. Eighty years later, it made its Lyric Opera premiere. Now, Verdi’s AIDA is this year’s warhouse opera split in two. Last year, the popular “Carmen” played in the fall and remounted with different principals in the winter. The current AIDA will run until February 8th and come back in March. Same elaborate staging but new principals. Again, opera is not simple. Do you buy a ticket to *this* stunning AIDA? Or take a chance on the next group of principals? A difficult decision made a little easier knowing that you should buy a ticket to one or the other.
Experiencing his first diva-esque opera, Richard describes it with ‘Love, Loss (and what a) War!’
Production photograph by Dan Rest.
Running Time: Three hours and thirty minutes includes two intermission
At Civic Opera House in the Ardis Krainik Theatre, 20 N. Wacker Drive
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, after a scenario by Auguste Mariette
Conducted by Renato Palumbo
Directed by Matthew Lata
Four acts performed in Italian with projected English titles
January 25th, 28th, 31st, March 6th, 10th, 19th, 22nd at 7:30pm
February 3rd, 8th, March 15th, 25th at 2pm
Buy Tickets at www.lyricopera.org