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Opera Abbreviated Podcast: Verdi's 'Aida' At The Met

Marty Sohl
Metropolitan Opera
A scene from Act 2 of the Metropolitan Opera's Aida production

The Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD presentations, beamed into cinemas worldwide, begins a new season Saturday, Oct. 6. Anna Netrebko stars in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida.

The Met retains the pseudo-realistic sets and costumes from 1987. The show looks like an Italian opera representation of Egypt in the time of the pharaohs.

Elizabeth Taylor's Cinecitta Cleopatra would be at home in these sets (she may have found them puny).

Netrebko is the only singer who can today guarantee a healthy box office return based on name alone. Netrebko first came to us as a light soprano.

In recent years, she's blossomed into Lady Macbeth, Tosca and now the title character in Verdi's most beloved opera.

Joining Netrebko is mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili, whose powerhouse voice is knocking down the walls.

This Aida production promises to be a good old-fashioned Italian opera, get-in-there-and-fight bloodbath – nothing precious about these two.

Here are my thoughts on Aida from earlier this year.

This isn't exactly Opera Abbreviated. I'm afraid this offering runs 30 minutes. Abbreviated, indeed!

I couldn't help it. With Aida, I just don't know where to cut and when to shut up. It was the first opera I ever loved (the great recording with Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers and Robert Merrill, conducted by Georg Solti!).

So come get your popcorn, corn dogs and brewskis, put your feet up in your local cinemas and enjoy Aida, complete with "Walk Like an Egyptian" stances and some wonderful, monster voices, not forgetting the splendid Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus.

It's live from New York in real time, and it's this Saturday afternoon at 1. See you there!

P.S. In recent years, there has been controversy over an Aida wearing dark makeup. The character is meant to be the (imprisoned) Princess of Ethiopia.

I've only seen her portrayed as black, going back to my first Aida production in 1970. Every photograph I've seen of the title character has her wearing dark makeup, going back to the premiere in 1871.

Aida and her father, Amonasro, wear dark makeup. The Egyptians do not.

What do you think? Has the dark makeup for these characters outlived its purpose? Is it offensive in this day?

You could say that if the Ethiopians are "painted" dark, why are the Egyptians so often depicted as white? Points worth considering.

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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