Filling movie screens up and down Berkshire County, and indeed, the world, the Metropolitan Opera presents a live performance of one of the most popular and beloved operas of all time, Aida. You can revel in the spectacular staging that captures the grandeur of Ancient Egypt this Saturday, December 15 at 12:55 pm for the spectacle. From the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington and Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, to North County where the Clark Art Museum and North Adams MoviePlex are located, there’s somewhere near you within a short drive.
It’s the original blockbuster opera. More than 200 artists will fill the Met stage for this performance of Verdi’s tragedy, which sets a heartbreaking love triangle against the backdrop of an empire at war. As you can see in our film clip above which captures the famous triumphal scene in the second act, Radames leads the Egyptian army on its return following their victory over the Ethiopians. The sequence gives directors the opportunity for elaborate spectacle typical of the grand opera of the period in the nineteenth century, and the Metropolitan Opera does not disappoint.
Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska makes a spectacular Met debut as Aida, the enslaved Ethiopian princess, opposite two major Met stars: tenor Roberto Alagna as the war hero Radamès and Olga Borodina as the pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, Aida’s formidable rival. George Gagnidze sings Amonasro, Aida’s cunning father, and Štefan Kocán is the imposing Egyptian priest Ramfis. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi conducts his first company performances of the opera and star soprano Renée Fleming hosts the transmission and conducts backstage interviews with the cast.
Running time: approximately 216 minutes, including two intermissions. The December 15 matinee performance of Aida will be transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 1,900 theaters in 64 countries around the world.
With more than 1,100 Met performances since 1886, Aida is the second-most popular opera in the repertory.
The Principals and Conductor
Luisi last conducted the opera for his debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, with a cast that included Monastyrska, Borodina, and Alagna. This season at the Met, Luisi also conducts a new production of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, a rare revival of Berlioz’s Les Troyens, and three complete cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. His past performances with the company include Verdi’s Don Carlo, Simon Boccanegra, Rigoletto, and La Traviata; Richard Strauss’s Die Ägyptische Helena, Elektra, and Ariadne auf Naxos; Puccini’s Turandot, Tosca, and La Bohème; Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni; Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel; Berg’s Lulu; and Massenet’s Manon.
Liudmyla Monastyrska has sung Aida to acclaim at both Covent Garden and La Scala. Her repertory also includes Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth, which she has sung at Covent Garden and the Deutsche Oper Berlin; the title role in Tosca, which she sang at Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, Italy; and Odabella in Verdi’s Attila, which she sang at the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile earlier this season and will reprise at Deutsche Oper Berlin this spring. Later this season, she sings Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco at Covent Garden and La Scala.
Olga Borodina sang her first Met Amneris in 1998 and has since performed the role 28 times with the company, most recently in 2009. She last sang the role at Covent Garden in 2011 and will repeat it this spring at the Vienna State Opera. She made her Met debut in 1997 as Marina in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and has since sung 10 other roles with the company, most frequently Amneris and the title role in Bizet’s Carmen. Her other Met roles have included Dalila in Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Isabella in Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Laura in La Gioconda, Eboli in Don Carlo, the Principessa de Bouillon in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, Marguerite in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, and, last season, Marfa in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina.
Marco Berti first sang Radamès at the Met in the 2007-08 season. He made his debut as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in 2004 and has since sung Don José in Carmen, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Calàf in Turandot, and Cavaradossi in Tosca (in a gala that opened the 2005-06 season). This season at the Met he also sings Calàf and Manrico in addition to Radamès. He has sung the role of the Egyptian general at opera houses around the world, including the Maggio Musicale in Florence, Arena di Verona, and Tel Aviv Opera. Later this season, he will sing it in Salerno, at Deutsche Oper Berlin, and at La Scala.
Alberto Mastromarino made his Met debut in 2009, singing Tonio in Pagliacci and Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana opposite Alagna. The Italian baritone has sung Amonasro at the Arena di Verona and with Rome Opera at the Terme di Caracalla. Later this season, he will sing the role at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
Hui He made her Met debut as Aida in 2010. She has sung the role all over the world, including performances at Rome Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Arena di Verona, Teatro Verdi in Salerno, Palau de les Artes in Valencia, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and, next season, La Scala. This season, she also sings the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Copenhagen Opera, Bavarian State Opera, and Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and the title role in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda in Salerno.
Dolora Zajick made her Met debut as Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore in 1988 and has since sung the role 48 times, including an acclaimed series of performances earlier this season. Amneris is her most-performed Met role, with more than 75 performances since 1989; only Louise Homer and Blanche Thebom have sung more company performances of the role. Zajick’s Met repertory includes Eboli in Don Carlo, Ježibaba in Dvořák’s Rusalka, Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Marfa in Khovanshchina, Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma, Elvira in Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, and The Countess in The Queen of Spades. Also this month, she sings Ulrica in a new production of Un Ballo in Maschera.
Roberto Alagna made an acclaimed Met role debut as Radamès filling in for an ailing colleague on short notice in 2007. He most recently sang the role at Covent Garden in 2011. He made his Met debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème in 1996. His subsequent performances have included the title roles in Don Carlo, Massenet’s Werther, and Gounod’s Faust; Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore;the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto;Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; Don José in Carmen;Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly;Ruggero in Puccini’s La Rondine;Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; andCavaradossi in Tosca.
George Gagnidze makes his role debut this season as Amonasro. In 2009, he made his Met debut in the title role of Rigoletto and sang Scarpia in the new production premiere of Tosca. Last season at the Met, he sang Scarpia, Shaklovity in Khovanshchina and the title role in Macbeth. This spring, he returns to the Met to sing the title role in a new production of Rigoletto.
ACT I. In ancient Egypt, near the royal palace at Memphis, Radamès learns from the high priest, Ramfis, that Ethiopia soon may bring war to the Nile valley. The young officer hopes he will be chosen as commander of the army, envisioning triumph so he can free his beloved Aida, Ethiopian slave of the proud Princess Amneris. Amneris, who herself loves Radamès, jealously senses his feelings for Aida when the three meet. A procession led by the King arrives to confirm that the Ethiopians are advancing on Thebes. He appoints the jubilant Radamès as Egyptian commander, at which shouts of victory fill the air. Left alone, Aida is torn between her love for Radamès and for her native land: though now a slave, she is in fact the daughter of Amonasro, king of Ethiopia. She prays to the gods for mercy.
In the temple, as priestesses chant the praises of Ptah, priests consecrate Radamès’ sword in a sacred ritual.
ACT II. Ethiopia has been defeated. Amneris, entertained by slaves, prepares for Radamès’ triumphal entry into Thebes. When Aida approaches, the princess dismisses her other attendants and tries to learn Aida’s private thoughts, first pretending Radamès is dead, then saying he is still alive. Certain from Aida’s reactions — horror, followed by joy — that her slave loves Radamès, Amneris leaves for the festivities. Aida reiterates her prayers.
At the city gates, victory is celebrated in parade and dance, a ceremony observed by the King and Amneris. Radamès is borne in and crowned with a victor’s wreath. Captured Ethiopians follow, among them Amonasro, Aida’s father, who signals her not to betray his identity as king. Impressed by Amonasro’s eloquent plea, Radamès asks as his reward that the priests’ death sentence on the prisoners be overruled and that they be freed. The King grants this, as well as Amneris’ hand, but keeps Amonasro in custody.
ACT III. On a moonlit bank of the Nile, Amneris is led by Ramfis to a temple of Isis for a wedding vigil. Nearby, waiting for Radamès, Aida is overcome with nostalgia for her homeland. Amonasro, who suddenly appears, preys on these feelings, forcing his daughter to agree to ask Radamès where the Egyptian army plans to enter Ethiopia. This she does when Radamès appears, ardent with dreams of their future life together. Just as he reveals the military secret, Amonasro steps out of hiding, and Ramfis and Amneris come forth from the temple. While Aida escapes with her father, Radamès surrenders to the priests as a traitor.
ACT IV. In a temple of judgment, awaiting trial, Radamès is unmoved by Amneris’ offer to save him if he will renounce Aida and marry her. When he is led away, Amneris’ pride dissolves, her love for Radamès revealed by her agony in hearing him condemned to death. Enraged, the princess curses the judges. Buried alive in a crypt, Radamès is joined by Aida, who has hidden there to share his fate. The lovers bid farewell to earth as Amneris, above the tomb, prays for peace.