A spectacular production of Aida, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, has closed this year’s opera season at the Arena in Verona, the biggest open air theatre in the world.
Aida, composed by Verdi to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, is a psychological drama set in the exotic framework of Ancient Egypt.
It tells the story of an Ethiopian princess taken prisoner and turned into a slave by the Egyptians. She is torn between her love for brave Radamès, the young captain of the Pharaoh’s army, and her own homeland, which she feels she will never see again.
For Amarilli Nizza, an established soprano on the international opera scene, Aida is a classical character, and as such extremely modern;
“I see Aida as very modern, these days in particular. She’s a woman who’s been asked to incarnate such strong values as ‘homeland’, or ‘family’ , and at this point in time, when certain values are pretty scarce, I think that a woman like Aida, who has such sound values and is prepared to die for them, is extremely topical and modern.
Not to mention those three quarters of the world where the condition of women today is still similar to Aida’s.”
Nizza has a vast repertoire, but Aida is the role she has sung the most. She admits that she decided to sing it only after much pressure from her entourage. For a long time she was baffled by the complexity of this part;
“It’s an extremely varied, multi-faceted role, and it needs a lot of technique: lots of ‘colours’, and chiaroscuro; it requires an extended phrasing and legato; it can be extremely lyrical, but also incisive and dramatic. Technically you need to be really very well-equipped to respect all the indications Verdi wrote on his score, and that’s far from being easy.”
Director Zeffirelli wanted to lighten up the ‘pharaonic’ character of this opera, and chose to put on stage a ballet by Vladimir Vassiliev during the music of the Triumphal March, thus replacing horses and elephants which traditionally paraded onstage in many previous editions of Aida.
A tragic ending awaits the two lovers: Radamès unwittingly reveals his military strategy to the enemy, Aida’s father, and is condemned to be buried alive. Aida decides to die at his side.