Filmed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Daniela Dessì, Elisabetta Fiorillo, Fabio Armiliato, Juan Pons and Roberto Scandiuzzi lead the cast in the renowned period production filmed in 2003 against the historic paper trompe-l'œil sets painted between 1936-45 by Josep Mestres Cabanes, the last representative of the old Catalan school of scenography. Mestres Cabanes worked on his Aida vision for eight years. The opulent staging he created in 1945 is here in every detail. The seven magnificent sets he painted for Aida in 1945 have been subtly and painstakingly restored by Jordi Castells and his team – revealing the palaces, temples and surroundings of Memphis and Thebes which the set designer had wanted to evoke in his historical yet also fantasy-like vision.
These fascinating sets are not just realistic – but also magical in the theatrical sense. Mestres Cabanes loved the theatre which he had been exploring for over a quarter of a century. His sets are dramatic and visceral, conceived for stage action, conveying the dynamic tensions proper to each part of the work – intimate, epic, severe, sensual, troubled and tragic.
Aida is set in Egypt in the days of the great pharaohs. The Egyptians are at war with the Ethiopians, who are threatening to invade them. The Egyptian army is victorious and Amonasro, the king of Ethiopia, is captured. Against this background Radames, the Egyptian commander, and Aida, an Ethiopian slave who is also Amonasro's daughter, fall in love. As is ever the case in Romantic drama, their love triumphs over the hatred between their peoples and their contrasting social status.
The commission for Aida came from the khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, one of the most outstanding leaders in that country's modern history. The premiere took place at the Cairo opera house, which had been inaugurated two years earlier. Thus Aida pursues a characteristically 19th century objective: that of creating a spectacle performance, akin to French grand opéra, in which scenes of pomp and splendour deploying a large orchestra and chorus reproduce the magnificence of Ancient Egypt. But Aida is much more than this, for it is a lyrical, intimistic opera as well.
Paul McCreesh, Graham Vick – Plácido Domingo (Bajazet), Jennifer Holloway (Irene), Sara Mingardo (Andronico) – Teatro Real Madrid
Antoni Ros-Marbà, Willy Decker – Giorgio Giuseppini (Lodovico), José Cura (Otello), Vittorio Grigolo (Cassio) – Gran Teatre del Liceu
Riccardo Muti, Liliana Cavani – Salvatore Licitra (Riccardo), Maria Guleghina (Amelia) – Teatro alla Scala