Production from 2017
Production La Monnaie / De Munt
Stathis Livathinos on Aida
Aida has a number of different levels, each shrouded in a certain Egyptian decorum. But the real story, the true heart of Aida, has nothing to do with its Egyptian exterior. It is about death and tragic endings rather than Egyptian morality or law. Aida depicts a very human situation imbued with love and passion. Things seem to have already been decided and the protagonists try to fight in defiance of fate. This struggle with fate is always an existential moment from which nobody can emerge victorious. Lovers like Radames and Aida are defenceless and vulnerable. Aida, moreover, is completely anti-heroic. The illusions bound up with love and heroism are among the most moving aspects of this opera. The real conflict here is not the war between the Ethiopians and the Egyptians, which sets the context of the work; it is, rather, the existential and emotional struggle between Aida, Radames, and Amneris – which is lost in advance.
The way I see it, ‘Un deserto è la mia vita’ is a key statement by Aida, in Act II, even if the music comes close to obscuring it. What does it mean to live a life that is like a desert? The superb sets created by the sculptor Alexander Polzin offer me a perfect poetic image of that. Concentrating on the desert, a metaphor for the characters’ lives, brings us closer to life’s paradoxes, as dealt with in modern drama. In that sense, Verdi becomes Beckettian. As a storyteller, of course, Verdi is Shakespearean. But the deeper meaning of his work and his perception of the human condition already herald Beckett. In the last act of Aida, Verdi shows that the death of illusions is a true human tragedy.
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