Zeffirelli’s Aida – not all opera singers have the wrong bodies to be young lovers.

Too many people are put off opera because they can’t accept the visual contradiction between realatively mature singers playing young and supposedly attractive lovers. I have never been to bothered by that as, for me anyway, in the hands of a great composer such as Giuseppe Verdi, if the singers have the voice and can put in a bit of acting wellie then it is mostly all there in the music but I know not everyone agrees with me.

I was thrilled though to come across the dvd over the weekend of Verdi’s Egyptian opera Aida directed by the grand old Italian opera and movie director Franco Zeffirelli using a cast of young singers (with new young voices trained for this production by that peerless Itallian stylist, the great tenor Carlo Bergonzi) in a small opera house where they didn’t need the big voices of great star singers.

Aida is often done as a spectacle opera even though there aren’t that many scenes that demand grand effects. In the end it is about a few passionate people caught in a terrible dilemma through the conflicts of love and patriotism.

In Zeffirelli’s hands, the whole thing is wonderfully convincing and for me, a Verdi lover who has never particularly taken to this opera, it was a revelation.

It was wonderful to have an Aida, the splendid Adina Aaron, who is supposed to be a beautiful young Ethiopian Princess who looks like a beautiful young Ethiopian princess. stick with this scene and you will see what I mean. You might even want to see the whole thing.

It is a good week to listen to something with an Egyptian theme – we need as many encouraging things as we can think of to associate with that troubled country. Verdi, after all was a great fighter for liberating suffering peoples.

In this scene, the Egyptian princess Amneris (the exciting young mezzo soprano Kate Aldrich) prepares for the triumphant return of the man she loves, the young leader of the Egyptian army, Radames. she suspects that he is in love with her slave girl, the captured Ethiopian princess,  Aida (Adina Aaron). She wheedles the information out of the love-sick girl by pretending to be her friend.

The young Egyptian captain, Radames, the object of both women’s love, looks like like a young Egyptian captain too. Verdi wastes little time in the opera either letting us know just what Radames feels for Aida and the young tenor Scott Piper doesn’t disappoint.

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