Aida was commissioned from Giuseppe Verdi to celebrate the opening of the Opera House in Cairo in early 1871, the Suez Canal having opened in 1869. In the event, Aida was not the opening opera. The scenery and costumes being made in Paris didn’t make it in time to Cairo. They were stranded in Paris in a blockade during the Franco-Prussian War. Instead Rigoletto opened the Cairo House. The Aida material arrived eventually permitting its premiere at the end of 1871. Verdi didn’t attend the Cairo opening; he considered its first performance in Milan, the following February, to be the real premiere. It was an immediate success throughout Europe. It was soon mounted in numerous houses: New York (1873), Berlin (1874), Paris (1876), London (1876), and notably Melbourne in 1877. There was a remarkable appetite for new operas at that time. Aida has been enduringly popular ever since.
Although Aida is thought of as a spectacle, only the Triumphal March really fits that description; for the rest, it is an intimate, dramatic opera. Aida will open in a new production at the Sydney Opera House on 18 July (in rep. until 31 Aug). The conductor is Andrea Battistoni, the director, choreographer & set designer is Davide Livermore, artistic director of Turin Opera, using OA’s new whizz-bang digital technologies promising a new experience for audiences. International singers are in all the leading roles except Warwick Fyfe as Amonasro. Not what used to be expected of a national company.
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