February 05, 2024
Get to know: Verdi's AIDA
Magnificent voices, a sumptuous chorus, and an imposing orchestra combine to make Giuseppe Verdi's Aida one of opera's greatest glories. But the miracle of Aida is the amazing contrast Verdi creates by alternating that grandeur with scenes of riveting intimacy for principal characters.
Aida, a captive princess, and Radames, an army general, are in love, but Radames is also loved by Amneris, a princess from his own country. Aida feels torn between her love for Radames and her loyalty to her father, King Amonasro, and her home nation. When Radames's army wins its battle, Amonasro is taken prisoner, setting in motion the disastrous events that overtake him, Aida, and Radames.
Audiences invariably thrill to Aida's "greatest hits" — the heroine's two marvelous arias (the first powerfully dramatic, the second achingly nostalgic) and Radames's lovestruck reverie, "Celeste Aida." Amneris can steal the show with her awe-inspiring Judgment Scene. Aida's enthralling duets with Amneris and Amonasro make a stunning impact, and there's a luminous serenity in her final duet with Radames. Then there are, of course, the opera's stupendous ensembles, including the Triumphal Scene, which demands the musical, vocal, and theatrical resources that only a truly great opera company can provide.
Portraying the two lovers will be soprano Michelle Bradley and tenor Russell Thomas, the duo who enraptured Lyric audiences in the 2022/23 Tosca. They're both closely associated with Verdi repertoire and have made Aida one of their specialties. Rising to stardom at the Metropolitan Opera, they're now recognized all over the world for their wonderfully velvety voices, thoughtful musicality, and riveting stage presence.
Portraying the jealous Amneris, America’s dramatic mezzo-soprano of choice, Jamie Barton, returns to Lyric after her sensational role debut at Madrid’s prestigious Teatro Real. One of this country’s most thrilling baritones, the fast-rising Reginald Smith, Jr. — fresh from a triumph of his own, in Lyric’s Champion — will be Amonasro. Making his Lyric debut as Ramfis, the fierce high priest, will be Turkish bass Önay Köse, rapidly establishing himself with prestigious opera companies and orchestras internationally.
Music director Enrique Mazzola, whose stylistic command of Verdi repertoire has been one of the glories of recent Lyric seasons, will be on the podium for this production — astonishingly, the conductor's first full-length Aida. Two performances will be led by one of Canada's most gifted opera conductors, Francesco Milioto.
This production brings together an innovative creative team, beginning with the renowned director Francesca Zambello. She boldly paired the astonishing graffiti artist RETNA with one of America's most acclaimed stage designers, Michael Yeargan, who adapted RETNA's paintings and images for the stage. The brilliance of Anita Yavich (costume designer) and Jessica Lang (choreographer) adds luster to the production, which Bachtrack called "wondrous."
See Verdi's grandest opera, onstage at Lyric, March 9 through April 7.