Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Sung in Italian with German surtitles
Premiere on 22 July 2009 - 9.15 p.m., Floating Stage
It's one of the most performed operas in the entire repertoire: a story of a legendary love stronger than death, and a very modern parable about nationalism, belligerence and hatred of the enemy. Giuseppe Verdi's monumental opera Aida is to receive its first ever performance on the Bregenz Floating Stage in the summer of 2009 and 2010. The story of the tragic love between the Ethiopian princess Aida – once brought to the Nile as a slave - and the Egyptian commander Radames was enthusiastically acclaimed at its premiere in Cairo in 1871. Since then Aida has gone on to become one of the most popular and most performed works in the opera repertoire.
Right from the start Verdi conceived Aida an as opera that would be second to none, endowed with all the elements of the genre in perfect combination. There are grandiose choral scenes and rousing rhythmic marches, lyrical evocations of nature, gorgeous arias and romantic duets, and their effect is further enhanced by the exotic flavour of the music. The famous triumphal march with its blaring fanfares and stirring choruses is one of the musical and dramatic highpoints of "grand Italian opera".
The beautiful Aida and the proud Radames are condemned to death – he for treachery, she for love. They are to be immured in a temple vault while still alive, a death that could hardly be more pitiless. And yet their end is accompanied by music which reveals nothing of the awful fait that awaits them: for at this moment we hear the final aria "O terra addio, addio valle di pianti ("O Earth, farewell – farewell, vale of tears") – so delicate, so pure and so radiant that it would seem that nothing in the world can make this love perish. Aida and Radames are carried off together by death, united for ever in a last embrace.
Verdi and the Floating Stage
"There was, of course, nothing random about my decision to mount Aida, another opera by Guiseppe Verdi, on the Floating Stage. This stage is after all a marvellous venue for everything that this composer did best: transforming grand passion and tragic conflict into superb music." David Pountney, artistic director
David Pountney's own thrilling and highly acclaimed production of Nabucco in the summer of 1993 and 1994 launched what has become a remarkable series of operas by Giuseppe Verdi on the Bregenz Festival's Floating Stage. It has been clear at least since 1999 with the opera A Masked Ball, whose stage sculpture of a giant skeleton leafing through a book attracted attention all over the world, that the Bregenz Floating Stage and Giuseppe Verdi are a perfect match.
The Floating Stage would seem indeed to be the ideal venue for Verdi operas. With their huge choruses, moving mass scenes and dramatic duets, it is as though they were written specifically with the open-air stage in mind, with its great possibilities for imposing sets.
So Aida will be the opera on the Floating Stage for the first time. David Pountney is not the least perturbed by the fact that the Floating Stage stands in a lake and not in a desert. "It's the first time in the Festival's history that this magnificent 'desert opera' has been staged on the shore of Lake Constance, and of course its poses a considerable challenge. But we think we have found a really exciting production concept."