Aida (2nd production)

The souls of men and women, impassioned all. Their voices rise and fall, battle trumpets call… Verdi Cries, 10,000 Maniacs

My feet feel the sand; and my hands the water of the Nile. The setting for Aida is Egypt and I can still feel and hear the journey like it was yesterday. It’s the kind of visit I wasn’t born to have and I’m proud and shocked that I could lay a line like this and it be true. I write it again to be sure:

My feet feel the sand; and my hands the water of the Nile.

I land in Cairo and confidently walk past the cab hustlers toward a gas station bus stop down the road.

#83, right? I get on.

It is evening and I believe this is definitely the correct bus, the lonely planet books never let me down.

My confidence leaves me quick like a thirsty camel toward an oasis. The windows of the bus are painted over black, I guess to keep out the sun, and no one near me speaks English (nor I, Egyptian). The further the bus goes into the unknown there is a voice in my head that begins to say “oh fuck,” as people continue to get off at their stops; the bus is getting pretty empty.

Like a mirage, I hear an American voice toward the front of the bus. Not just American, but an American who attends Swarthmore, an ivy league college near my hometown where me and my friend Tom sometimes go to play tennis. Turns out not only does this woman speak fluent English, but she also speaks fluent Egyptian. I follow Dani, like my life depends on it, which it probably does, and I crash at her hostel.

Over the next few days we stroll the markets together, ride camels at Giza, and walk up, and then down, into my first pyramid.

One night she is harassed by a cocky machismo in a night market who makes rude comments toward her. I immediately come between them, full of a bravado I can only back it up with pride and not muscle. He will probably beat me senseless, but a crowd of men pull him away before I find out.

The Franco Zeffirelli production is as grand as the theme, four real horses occupy the stage with hundreds of people. During the intermission they leave the curtain up so people can take photos and the man next to us who is by himself is nice enough to email me a photo of it. They will be retiring this production after tonight.

I’m nostalgic and really feel the ending of tonights Aida while I reminisce about Dani and feeling the sand of the Nile.

Aida is a grand opera, where the personal drama overlaps with an overarching political drama. The Egyptian general Radames is tasked with leading their army against Ethiopia. It is a classic tale of boy loves girl, but girl happens to be the enslaved daughter of the king of Ethiopia, Amonasro. To complicate things further, her master princess Amneris also loves Radames, and she is the jealous type.

Listen for:

I don’t know where it is but I wrote in my journal that “the cello string followed her voice deep like a shadow.”

O Patria Mia, where Aida thinks Radames may no longer love her and she’ll never see her homeland again.

*10,000 Maniacs, In my Tribe, Verdi Cries, 1987               

Notes on the production 

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Composer………………………… Giuseppe Verdi

Aida……………………………….….. Anna Netrebko

Amneris…………………………… Anita Rachvelishvili

Radames…………………………. Aleksandrs Antonenko

Amonasro………………..……… Quinn Kelsey

Priestess…………………………. Gabriella Reyes

King……………………………….…. Ryan Speedo Green

Conductor……………………….. Nicola Luisotti

Metropolitan Opera

10/11/18