Friday, July 19, 2019
Opera Idaho Stages Idaho’s First Fully Staged ‘Aida’
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Sunday, February 3, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

If you’re looking for a place to stage Guiseppe Verdi’s “Aida” in Idaho, you couldn’t find any place more fitting than the Egyptian Theatre in Boise.

Verdi was commissioned to write the opera to celebrate the opening of Cairo’s Royal Opera House in 1870. And the Egyptian Theatre, as you might guess by its name, is rife with Egyptian imagery.

Opera Idaho will present “Aida” Friday, Feb. 22, and Sunday, Feb. 24, at the historic theatre in the shadow of the state Capitol Building at 700 W. Main St.

The Friday performance starts at 7:30 p.m.; the Sunday performance, at 2:30 p.m.

This, amazingly, will be the first fully staged performance of “Aida” in Idaho despite the opera’s immense popularity.

It was a French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette who wrote the first sketch of “Aida” based on a true story found in a papyrus. That papyrus talked of an Egyptian warrior who was condemned to death for disclosing weighty secrets to the enemy.

But the papyrus did not disclose the motive for treason—love, revenge, disloyalty?

French librettist Camille du Locle filled in the blanks under Verdi’s watchful eye. And Antonio Ghislanzoni, an opera singer-turned –poet, transformed the French prose into the Italian verses that would have been a hit on the Top 40 had they been written in the 1960s.

“Aida” has become one of the most popular operas of all time—even Elton John and Tim Rice staged a musical based on a children’s storybook version on Broadway in 2000.

The story takes place during the reign of the pharaohs where the high priest tells the warrior Radames that Ethiopia is preparing an attack against Egypt.

Radames is in love with Aida, the Ethiopian slave of Princess Amneris, the king’s daughter, and he believes he could free and marry her if he is victorious. But Amneris loves Radames and is jealous of his feelings for Aida. And, at the first opportunity, she tells Aida that Radames has fallen in battle but remains alive.

Radames does indeed betray Egypt, but accidentally. And he surrenders to await trial as a traitor believing Aida to be dead. Of course, she’s not.

The Opera Idaho cast includes Soprano Michelle Johnson, who performed Aida at the Knoxville Opera in May 2018 and at the Sarasota Opera in January, February and March 2016.

She will star opposite American Tenor Michael Wade Lee, whom one critic said is “really good-looking, virile, well-built and a gifted thespian with a wide-ranging voice to match.”

Daryl Freedman will portray Amneris; Reginald Smith Jr., Amonasro; James Harrington, The King; Dennis Rupp, Ramphis; Ting Li, the messenger, and Anna Polum, the high priestess.

The stage director is Ian Campbell; the conductor Andy Anderson.

For tickets, visit www.operaidaho.org.

DID YOU KNOW?

It’s a common misconception that Verdi wrote “Aida” to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal. He had been invited to write an inaugural hymn for the canal’s opening but declined.

 

 

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