Music by Giuseppe Verdi | Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Verdi’s grand Egyptian epic returns in a bold new production inspired by contemporary artist RETNA. This intimate love story of an Egyptian military hero, Radames, and a captured Ethiopian princess, Aida, features San Francisco Opera favorites Brian Jagde and Leah Crocetto.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
GALLERY OF COSTUMES
Radames, a captain of the guard, is in love with Aida, a slave girl. Aida’s mistress, the King of Egypt’s daughter, Amneris, is also in love with the captain. Unknown to anyone in Egypt, Aida is an Ethiopian princess and the daughter of Egypt’s worst enemy, King Amonasro.
Ramfis, the High Priest, is on his way to inform the Egyptian King of the name of the general whom the goddess Isis has chosen to lead the Egyptians against the Ethiopians. Radames hopes to be chosen and, envisioning a glorious victory, expresses his affection for Aida. Amneris joins him. While she is questioning him, Aida enters. Noting that Radames is strongly affected by the appearance of Aida, Amneris suspects the reason for his embarrassment and is overcome with jealousy. Accompanied by his ministers, the King enters. A messenger is brought forward and confirms the Ethiopian invasion. Radames is announced as the chosen commander to lead the Egyptians against the enemy. Everyone pays homage to the young warrior and wishes for his victorious return. Aida, too, is caught up in the battle cry, and after the court leaves, berates herself for having betrayed her own people. Divided between loyalty to her father and country and her love for Radames, she asks the gods for strength. In the Temple, a solemn ceremony is held to prepare Radames for battle. He is presented with the sacred sword of Egypt.
The Egyptian troops led by Radames have won the war. Amneris, still tormented by doubt and jealousy, resolves to question Aida and confirm her suspicions. Amneris manages to shake Aida’s composure and tricks her into revealing her love for Radames. Amneris is furious and upset by the truth. The people celebrate the return of the victorious troops and their leader Radames, who asks that the Ethiopian prisoners be brought forth. Among them, Aida recognizes her father. Hiding his true identity, Amonasro pleads for the lives of his people. The Egyptian King accedes to Radames’s wish that the prisoners be set free. Ramfis, warning of the consequences, succeeds in having Aida and her father retained as hostages. In token of Egypt’s gratitude, the King awards Radames the hand of Amneris.
To prepare for her wedding to Radames, Amneris retires to the Temple of Isis to worship with Ramfis. Outside the Temple, Aida waits for Radames. Having given up on her own happiness, she recalls her childhood in the valleys of Ethiopia. Amonasro joins her and raises her hopes for a happy life at the side of her beloved. The Ethiopian captives who were freed have banded together and once again ready themselves to attack Egypt. Hoping to exploit Aida’s love for Radames, Amonasro proposes that she ask Radames the route the Egyptian armies will take. At first Aida refuses, but Amonasro soon crushes her resistance. Amonasro hides as Radames appears, still affirming his love for Aida and hoping another victory will allow him to win her once and for all. Aida does not share his enthusiasm and instead persuades him to flee the country with her. As they start to leave, Aida asks which route the Egyptian troops will take. As Radames answers her, Amonasro reveals himself and Radames realizes he has been tricked into giving up an important military secret. Realizing they have been overheard by Ramfis and Amneris as they leave the Temple, Amonasro and Aida flee and Radames surrenders to the High Priest, ready to accept the consequences of his betrayal. Amneris, torn between love and hatred for Radames, at last resolves to save him. She urges him to defend himself, but he refuses. The priests assemble and three times allow Radames a chance to present his defense. Three times he refuses and is sentenced to die. Amneris pleads with the priests to revoke the sentence.
In the darkness of a tomb, Radames is joined by Aida who had hidden there earlier. While the priests chant their hymns, the two lovers, at last united, spend their final moments in daydreams. Outside the tomb, Amneris asks forgiveness for her rancor and prays to Isis for redemption.
An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello’s American debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio in 1984. She debuted in Europe at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda in 1987 and has since staged new productions at major theaters and opera houses in Europe and the USA. Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, she takes a special interest in new music theater works, innovative productions, and in producing theater and opera for wider audiences.
Photo by Daniel Chavkin
Francesca Zambello has recently been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture and the Russian Federation’s medal for Service to Culture. Other honors for her work include three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards for Best Musical and Best Opera. She has also received the award for Best Company Achievement. The French Grand Prix des Critiques was awarded to her twice for her work at the Paris Opera. Other awards include Best Production in Japan, the Palme d’Or in Germany, the Golden Mask in Russia and the Helpmann Award in Australia.
Francesca Zambello most recently developed and directed the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier for the San Francisco Opera, where she served as Artistic Advisor from 2006-2011. Other recent opera projects have included the first international production of Carmen to ever be presented at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the world premiere of An American Tragedy, Cyrano and Les Troyens for the Metropolitan Opera, Carmen and Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House, Boris Godunov, War and Peace, Billy Budd and William Tell at the Paris Opera, and The Ring for the San Francisco Opera.
Recent theater projects have included Show Boat in London at the Royal Albert Hall; a new musical, Rebecca, for Vienna’s Raimund Theater, Stuttgart’s Palladium Theater (presented by Stage Entertainment), and in St. Gallen, Switzerland; Tibet Through the Red Box, a new play by David Henry Hwang for the Seattle Children’s Theatre; The Little Prince with Oscar-winning composer Rachel Portman; Napoleon in the West End; The Little Mermaid for Disney on Broadway; the musical of The Little House on the Prairie and The Master Butchers at the Guthrie Theater, and Aladdin in Disneyland. Other recent works have included a film of Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for BBC Television, as well as a new film for the BBC, Sony and PBS of The Little Prince, and, West Side Story for the floating stage in Bregenz.
Zambello has also served as a guest professor at Yale University and The Juilliard School. She is the Artistic & General Director of Glimmerglass in Cooperstown, and was recently named Artistic Advisor to the Washington National Opera.
An American who grew up in Europe, she speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She attended Moscow University in 1976 and graduated cum laude from Colgate University in 1978. She began her career as an Assistant Director to the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. From 1984-1991 she was the Artistic Director of the Skylight Music Theater. She has been guest professor at Harvard and Berkeley Universities.
Francesca Zambello lives in New York and London.