STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION
364 Syggrou Avenue, Kallithea
Myron Michailidis (10,11/6)
Elias Voudouris (12,15/6)
SET - VIDEO - LIGHTING
Cellia Costea (10,12/6)
Anda-Louise Bogza (11,15/6)
Walter Fraccaro (10,12,15/6)
Francesco Anile (11/6)
Elena Gabouri (10,12/6)
Elena Cassian (11,15/6)
Amonasro Aris Argiris (10,12/6)
Angelo Veccia (11,15/6)
10, 11, 12, 15 June 2016
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
New production originating from the Taormina Opera Festival
Within the framework of the Athens Festival
Starts at 21.00 |
The Greek National Opera opens this year’s Athens Festival with Giuseppe Verdi’s magnificent opera Aida, to be performed on 10, 11, 12 and 15 June 2016 at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre. This popular piece gets a fresh interpretation in the GNO’s capable hands, in a show first produced by the renowned Taormina Opera Festival, conducted by Myron Michailidis and Elias Voudouris, and directed by Enrico Castiglione.
Aida marks a turning point in Italian music, balanced on the cusp between Romantic opera and French grand opera. Breathtaking arias, thrilling crowd scenes, long duets and stunning ballet all set Aida apart, a masterpiece that showcases Verdi’s operatic language reaching new heights. The grand, exotic strains of the triumphal march immediately transport us to the mysterious East, a setting which has contributed greatly to the opera’s continuing popularity. The action unfolds in the ancient Egypt of the pharaohs, veiled in the mists of time: a setting largely familiar to 20th century audiences thanks to a slew of glamorous Hollywood films. But the exotic locale is just one of the jewels in Aida’s crown. Verdi is famous for his portrayals of love triangles, and in Aida we meet three of his most star-crossed lovers. Aida, the princess of Ethiopia held hostage in the Pharaoh’s court, has fallen in love with one of her captors: the Egyptian general Radamès. Secretly, he loves her in return, but there is a catch: the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, who holds Aida as her slave, has also fallen in love with Radamès, with deadly consequences. At the heart of the work is Aida, trapped between her feelings for the man she loves and her duty to her father and homeland.
Aida represents an ongoing dialogue between public life and private emotions; a dialogue that shapes the entire aesthetic of the work, which ranges from sotto voce confessions to exuberant declarations. The crowd scenes such as the triumphal march in Scene 2, Act 2 stand in strong contrast with the private emotions experienced by the opera’s three main characters. One of Verdi’s greatest accomplishments in this work was the balance he managed to strike: offering us a grandiose and lavish march scene that somehow conveys his deep sympathy with the losers, while concluding the opera in a simple, low-key, yet far more powerful manner, stirring up great feelings in the audience with the lightest of touches. The portrayal of Aida’s dignified stance and the opera’s strong sympathies for the underdog have an undeniable ring of truth to them, as the great composer himself passionately defended human rights throughout his life.
Myron Michailidis, Artistic Director of the GNO and Chief Conductor in this production says: “Aida was first presented by the GNO on 8 January 1958 inaugurating the new Olympia Theatre. This year it has been programmed at the end of the current artistic season, at the same time at a turning point in the history of the Greek National Opera, in view of its relocation to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre. With Aida, this «necklace of precious musical gems» as it has been characterized, Giuseppe Verdi has not only breathed new life to the «tired» Italian opera, bringing various twists, but also revealed the full extent of his own capabilities, and established himself as the undisputed leader of opera in his country, a «maestro» to the rest of the world. One could refer to the «triumphal march» or the mythical, exotic historic framework –that of pharaonic Egypt- or to the delicate rendering of the psychology of the opera’s protagonists. Yet, no description can adequately render the spectrum of the work's importance, except perhaps for the words of Thomas Mann in their simplicity in the Magic Mountain, when referring to the final duet of the lovers: They sang about paradise, but their songs where paradise themselves and were sung like paradise».
Conducted by the GNO's Artistic Director, Myron Michailidis, and Elias Voudouris, the opera is a new production of the celebrated Taormina Opera Festival, and is directed by the experienced Italian director Enrico Castiglione who is known for rendering his productions a quality of film-making as well as a realistic point of view.
With great Greek and international soloists like Cellia Costea, Anda-Louise Bogza, Walter Fraccaro, Francesco Anile, Elena Gabouri, Elena Cassian, Aris Argiris, Angelo Veccia, Tassos Apostolou, Dimitris Kassioumis et al.
With the Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the Greek National Opera
In Italian with english and greek surtitles
Upper Tier €25, C Zone €45, B Zone €55, A Zone €60. VIP Zones B & D €85,
VIP Zone C €100/ Children & students €15
Presale starts on 17 May 2016
Aida at a glance
Οpera in four acts
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a scenario by Auguste Mariette
World premiere Cairo Opera House, 24 December 1871
Greek National Opera premiere Olympia Theatre, 8 January 1958
The composer / Giuseppe Verdi, the most celebrated composer of Italian romanticism, was born in the village of Le Roncole in northern Italy in 1813, and died in Milan in 1901. He studied music in the small town of Busseto and then in Milan. His earliest works were influenced by the revolutionary spirit of the times, echoing the struggle of small Italian states to be liberated from the Austrians and unified into one dominant country. Verdi’s involvement with politics elevated the composer to the status of a national symbol (as an acrostic, ‘Viva Verdi’ meant ‘Viva, Vittorio Emanuele, Re d’Italia’), and in 1861 he was elected a member of the first Italian Parliament. His most significant operas include Nabucco (1842), Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), Il trovatore (1853), La traviata (1853), La forza del destino (1862), Don Carlos (1867, 1884), Aida (1871), Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893).
In terms of aesthetics, Verdi’s music expressed the spirit of ripe romanticism, while on a political level it expressed his compatriots’ desire to see Italy free and united. He had the good fortune to be loved by an especially broad section of the public and to enjoy a popularity that remains unfaltering to this day. Verdi was the composer who experienced that special moment in the history of music when high art became popular during the historical, political and social changes of the 19th century.
The opera / Aida is an opera in four acts to a libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, which was based on a scenario by Auguste Mariette. The opera is set in the age of the pharaohs. Aida, daughter of the king of Ethiopia, is held as a slave in Egypt, where she has fallen in love with Radamès, commander of the Egyptian army. Her rival for the warrior’s heart is her mistress, Amneris, daughter of the Egyptian king. In accordance to her father’s wishes, Aida manages to extract information about the Egyptian army’s strategy from Radamès. Radamès is charged with treason and condemned by the council of priests to death. Even Amneris’ pleas for his life cannot save him. Aida hides in the underground vault of the temple of Vulcan where Radamès is going to be entombed alive so that she may die beside him.
Premieres / Aida received its premiere at the Cairo Opera House on 24 December 1871 in a production conducted by composer and double bass player Giovanni Bottesini. The cast was led by Antonietta Pozzoni-Anastasi (Aida), Eleonora Grossi (Amneris), Pietro Mongini (Radamès) and Francesco Steller (Amonasro). The European premiere was held on 8 February 1872 at La Scala, Milan, and Verdi then made several changes to the score. This production was conducted by Franco Faccio, while the cast included Teresa Stolz as Aida, Maria Waldmann as Amneris, Giuseppe Fancelli as Radamès and Francesco Pandolfini as Amonasro.
There are references to an 1882 performance in Athens in Italian, while the first Olympia Theatre was inaugurated in April 1916 with Verdi’s Ernani and featured Aida during its first season. There was another run of performances a few months later at the Panathenaic Stadium under the baton of Belgian composer, violinist and conductor Armand Marsick, at the time living and working in Greece.
Aida was first staged by the Greek National Opera (founded in 1940) on 8 January 1958, during the inaugural season of the present-day Olympia Theatre. The production was conducted by Andreas ParidiS. The leading role was sung by Rena Kanaki, Radamès by Angelo Lo Forese (or Loforese) and Amneris by Franca Sacchi.
"The production of Aida I will present at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, has first been presented at the ancient theatre of Taormina, a rare gem, like the Herodes Atticus Odeon one of the most famous Greco-roman theatres of the Mediterranean. To produce once again a production which has already met with great success, like my first Aida, is always a stimulating challenge, difficult to repeat or to surpass, especially if one is to give a new perspective, to produce new solutions and create new emotions.
Aida is about passion, about drama, about power struggle, about magnificence, but it is also a «chamber opera» as Giuseppe Verdi himself liked to call it. It is an opera with a double soul, an intimate one, represented by the secret love story between Aida and Radamès with whom Amneris is also in love, and an extrovert one, represented by the grandeur of the Egyptian civilization, magnificently expressed by Verdi in Act II and especially in the «triumph» scene. Expressing these two sides is no easy task, even more so since Aida is one of the most produced operas, loved all over the world.
The principal problem in producing in a Greco-Roman theatre a work so strongly linked to the Egyptian civilization, is how to «host» ancient Egypt of the Pharaonic times in a theatre that has no relation to this civilization, in order to set the work in the time of the Pharaohs and achieve the maximum Egyptian splendor.
I have thus created a great pyramid, a symbol of ancient Egypt, which embraces the whole stage, a flattened pyramid on which all four acts of Verdi’s opera unfold. But this was not enough in order to render ancient Egypt with all its colors and in all its magnificence. So I have conceived a design which apart from the flattened pyramid is completed by a «coating» of the complete interior of the theatre with colors, forms, structures and symbols of Ancient Egypt. This has been made possible thanks to high definition projections of a series of images, which have the power to «transform» the ruins of the theatre into exceptional Egyptian environments.
The projections have been designed to match exactly the structure of the theatre, its columns, its niches, its curves. So, instead of simple images projected in casual manner on a part of the theatre, these projections transform a Greco-roman column into an Egyptian one, reconstructing an transforming Greco-roman walls into the walls of the Pharaohs imperial palace or to the chambers of Amneris, but also transforming the interior of the theatre in a long row of palm trees on the banks of the Nile.
I still recall the emotions of many spectators who found themselves unexpectedly plunged into the Nile, or in the imperial palace of the Pharaoh, because through the use of high definition projection technology the ancient theatre has been transformed into ancient Egypt. An I recall the amazement of those who wondered how I had mounted Egyptian columns in the Greek-roman theater.
Well, these same emotions, even more intense and stronger, I hope bring to the spectators at the Herodes Atticus Odeon, where the flattened pyramid on which the entire action takes place, completed by projections in high definition, will transform the entire Odeon into ancient Egypt, and more specifically in the environments of Verdi’s Aida, transforming the niches, the columns, the existing windows into Egyptian rather than ancient Greek style, hoping to give to the viewer a spectacular effect of high-impact.
The costumes by Sonia Cammarata, recreating with unanimously recognized imaginative flair the attires of Ancient Egypt, are also part of the whole scenario. These include the refined dresses of Aida and Amneris and the strongly communicative costumes of the King and of Amonasro as well as an extraordinary assortment of collars made with the mosaic technique, with thousands of colorful glass pieces shining spectacularly.
In this absolutely Egyptian scenario, the opera characters move with great agility, living their passions and their desires, their dramas and their dreams on the symbol par excellence of Ancient Egypt, the pyramid; a pyramid that in Act II houses the glory of the triumph and in Act IV reveals the intimacy of the tomb.
I have tried to highlight the love story of Aida and Radamès since Aida’s first appearance, when in Act I she comes across Amneris in the presence of Radamès. A love between the slave Aida and warrior Radamès, which leads both to death, a poignant death that finds them embraced in the shadows of the tomb under the altar of Amneris".
Act I, Scene 1: A room in the Palace in Memphis, Egypt. / The captain of the guards, Radamès, learns from Ramfis, the head of the high priests, that the Ethiopians are threatening to declare war. Radamès hopes he will be chosen as supreme commander of the Egyptian army. The king’s daughter, Amneris, appears and, shortly afterwards, her slave, Aida, approaches. Amneris sees in Aida’s eyes her love for Radamès. She swears vengeance because she too is in love with him. In the meantime the king enters. A messenger bears the news that the Ethiopians have invaded Egypt and are marching against Thebes, led by the mighty warrior Amonasro. The king announces that Isis has appointed Radamès supreme commander. The crowd cries out in homage to him, while Amneris prays for her warrior to return in victory. Only Aida is sad, since the victory of Radamès must mean the defeat of her father, Amonasro, the king of Ethiopia, who has taken up arms to free her from slavery.
Scene 2: Inside the temple of Vulcan in Memphis / The priests and priestesses sing a hymn to the gods. Radamès receives a sacred sword that is consecrated to Ptah to protect him in war and direct him towards victory.
Act II, Scene 1: A room in Amneris’ private apartments / The king’s daughter is surrounded by her slaves, who are dressing her for the triumphal Egyptian festivities. Amneris tries to discover whether Aida is, in fact, in love with Radamès. She tells her that he has been killed in battle. Aida is stricken with grief; this confirms Amneris’ suspicions and, filled with rage, she reveals that Radamès is alive. At first Aida declares her love, but then she begs in vain for pity.
Scene 2: At the citywalls in Thebes / The city’s inhabitants are celebrating victory. The king welcomes Radamès and asks him what he would like as a reward for his triumph. Radamès has the prisoners brought before the king. Among them Aida recognizes her father, Amonasro, who commands her not to betray him. Without revealing his true identity, he begs for mercy to all the prisoners. Ramfis objects and proposes that at least Aida and her father be held in Egypt, as a guarantee of peace. The king approves of this suggestion and announces that he intends to reward Radamès by bestowing the hand of Amneris upon him.
Act III Night on the banks of the Nile / Ramfis leads Amneris to the temple of Isis in order to receive the goddess’s blessing on the eve of her wedding. Concealed nearby, Aida awaits Radamès for a secret encounter, but, while she is waiting, Amonasro appears. He has discovered Aida’s and Radamès’ mutual love. He urges his daughter to persuade Radamès to reveal the route the Egyptian forces will use to invade Ethiopia. Aida is horrified by his suggestion, but consents to her father’s will. When Radamès approaches, she proposes to him that they flee from Egypt, following some secret route unguarded by the Egyptian forces. Radamès mentions the gorges of Napata. At that moment Amonasro reappears and reveals his true identity. Radamès is horror-stricken for he realizes that he has revealed a military secret and is dishonoured. Amneris and Ramfis arrive from the temple and cry out at the betrayal. Radamès allows himself to be taken prisoner while Amonasro escapes with Aida.
Act IV / Scene 1: A room in the king’s palace / Amneris wants to save Radamès and has him brought before her. She asks him to plead not guilty before the high priests to their charges of treason. He refuses. Amneris declares that she will implore the king to pardon him if only he will renounce his love for Aida. He repeatedly refuses and is consequently taken back to the dungeon, sentenced to be buried alive under the altar in the temple of Vulcan. Amneris bitterly deplores the cruelty of the priests and their punishment.
Scene 2: In the temple of Vulcan; in Radamès’ tomb / Radamès is ready to die. Aida, who is concealed in the chamber, suddenly comes forward to embrace him. While the two lovers bid farewell to the Earth, Amneris prostrates herself on the stone covering the entrance to the vault and beseeches the gods to grant peace to the man buried below.