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Opera Abbreviated Podcast: Giuseppe Verdi's 'Aida'

Columbus Symphony
Michelle Johnson as Aida in the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus production of Verdi's 'Aida'

The Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbuspresent Giuseppe Verdi's Aida at the Ohio Theatre, at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4. Rossen Milanov conducts.

I'm delighted that two fine local artists are playing featured roles: Brian Banion (Ramfis) and Robert Kerr(Pharaoh) — not to mention the superb all-volunteer Columbus Symphony Chorus, conducted by Ronald Jenkins.

This production of Aida will be broadcast at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 29 on Classical 101.

"Aida brings out the Epicurean," writes one British musicologist-type in an examination of complete recordings of Verdi's most popular opera.

Well, OK. I prefer to call Aida a great opera because it works on every level. The intimate drama — a love triangle between servant, princess and general — is exploited amid the backdrop of raging wars and triumphant armies.

This podcast series is called Opera Abbreviated, leading one to believe that the podcasts offered will be, well, brief, right? 

You'll notice that this Opera Abbreviated episode is about 30 minutes long.

Look, I did my best to be brief!

A complete performance of Aida runs about 2 and a half hours of music. Verdi was not one to drone on. He made his points, fell in love, expressed rage, grief and joy, waged wars and got everybody home humming, and in time for the last trains out of Milan, Paris or New York.

Aida ​is one of the few operas I know — and I know a lot of them — that has not one wasted note. You can't cut Aida. While writing this post and editing this podcast, I would often say, "Well, I can leave this out — I couldn't!"

After all, that could be you, riding in the chariot beside the triumphant Radames. Kneeling in the dust, weeping with Aida. Hiding on the banks of the Nile in the moonlight, plotting revenge. Or dying in your lover's arms in a sealed tomb, singing gently, with your final breaths set to Verdi's gorgeous, waning music. 

The setting may be exotic: Egypt at the time of the pharaohs. The sentiments would work today, but Verdi's music is better.

Don't miss Aida, in the Ohio Theatre this weekend, and on Classical 101 on April 29.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.
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