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Aida closes out the 43rd Portland Opera season
Erik Schultz

Posted May 13, 2008




Stories of forbidden love have been told numerous times but none have ever sounded so grand. If you have never heard of this wonderful opera, Aida, let me give you a quick run down. With war raging between their two countries, the Ethiopian slave, Aida, and the Egyptian princess, Amneris, both fall in love with the same Egyptian war hero, Radames.  A slip of the heart and a slip of the tongue seal the fates of the beautiful Aida and her heroic Radames in this, opera’s most explosive tale.  When he’s condemned to death, she slips into the dark crypt where they will be entombed together. Forever.

King of Egypt (Jeffrey Beuran) and Amneris (Leann Sandel-Pantaleo)
Photo credit © Cory Weaver for Portland Opera

Aida wraps up the Portland Opera’s season of “Great Women of the Stage”. Lead by the powerful Lisa Daltirus, making her Portland Opera debut as Aida, the cast boasts a wide range of new artists to the Portland stage. Lisa is no stranger to the role of Aida. From coast to coast, she has been giving an amazing performance of the star-crossed lover. The entire cast brings a heart gripping performance to all four acts.

Although their breathtaking vocal chords could easily stand on their own, the conducting by Vjekoslav Sutej is very worthy of praise. The music alone commands your attention. Currently he is the music director of the Zagreb Philharmonic.

The story, but not its music, was used as the basis for the Elton John and Tim Rice musical of the same name.

Amonasro (Greer Grimsley) and Aida (Lisa Daltirus)
Photo credit ©
Cory Weaver for Portland Opera

So, where did this story come from? Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Giuseppe Verdi to write the opera for performance in January 1871, paying him 150,000 francs, but the premiere was delayed because of the Franco-Prussian War. Contrary to popular belief, the opera was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, nor that of the Khedivial Opera House (which opened with Verdi's Rigoletto) in the same year. Thanks to Wikipedia for that information.

Aida was met with great acclaim when it finally opened in December 1871, and it continues to be a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. It appears as number sixteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

The 2008/09 season, which kicks off September 26th with another Verdi piece, La Traviata, is set to be a season of “Life on the Edge”. The season includes Beethoven’s Fidelio, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Cavalli’s La Calisto. If you can catch the last couple performances of Aida along with the other two Verdi performances next season, you can enjoy your own mini Verdi festival.

Aida at the Portland Opera

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