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About the opera

In 1868 Isma'il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt had an idea to turn Cairo in the world’s cultural capital. Opening of the Suez Canal and the Khedivial Opera House were to serve that idea. According to the desire of Khedive of Egypt, the first production was to be an opera with the national Egyptian plot.

The government of Egypt wanted to commission Giuseppe VERDI for creation of such an opera. However, the composer declined their offer. Even the fee of 150,000 franks (it is about 200,000 USD nowadays) that the Egyptians offered did not get him interested.

However, after the meeting with his only student, Emmanuelle MUTSIO, Verdi started thinking of the Egyptian offer. Mutsio managed to interest the composer with the plot of the old legend that a famous French Egyptologist Auguste MARIETTE found in an old Egyptian manuscript.

Some time later Camille DU LOCKLE, Verdi’s friend, sent the composer his plan for an opera in 4 acts based on that very legend. Impressed by the love story and the characters the composer at once started working at it. The opera got the name Aida. Auguste Mariette invented the name of the main heroine especially for the scenario of that musical piece. Antonio GHISLANZONI became the author for the rhymed Italian libretto.

Once Verdi said: “You need to be able to write fast, at a single breath, in order to write well. You can leave yourself some time to make corrections, rewrite, and alter the general line. Otherwise you risk spending too much time for one opera; you risk writing with breaks, creating music that lacks constituency, style and character”.

It took Verdi fewer than five months to write the opera but he had to wait for the whole year before its premiere in Cairo took place. It was impossible to transfer costumes, sets and scenic machinery to Egypt that had been produced in Paris after the design by Auguste Mariette because of the Franco-Prussian War. As a result The Khedivial Opera House opened with other operatic masterpiece by Verdi Rigoletto.

Aida finally opened in Cairo on 24 December 1871 and it met with great acclaim. However, the composer did not go to Cairo for the premiere. The production of Aida in La Scala to be held in just 40 days was more important for him. Verdi was heavily involved with the premiere at every stage, spent days meeting with the conductor Franco FACCIO and rehearsing with the singers who were to perform in Milan premiere, namely Teresa STOLZ, Maria WALDMANN, Paride PAVOLERI, Giuseppe FANCELLI, Ormando MAINI and Francesco PANDOLFINI.

It was cold and gloomy in Milan on 8 February but the house was full. Aida was received with great enthusiasm. The public burst into the thunder of applause when the performance was over. There were forty curtain calls for maestro Verdi as the public was “ecstatic with joy” as the chronicle writers recorded later. It was the beginning of a triumph. The opera was soon mounted at major opera houses throughout the world.

Due to the theatre entrepreneur Ivan TCHEREPENNIKOV Aida was one of the first productions on the stage of the Odessa City Theatre. As The New Russian Telegraph informed Aida by Verdi was on stage in December 1887 featuring Russian and Italian singers. At the edge of the 19th – 20th centuries the “Egyptian masterpiece” was on stage in many enterprises, namely in I. SETOV’s enterprise, Ivan GREKOV’s enterprise and a number of others.

Aida was also the opening production after the 1925 fire. The opera was in the theatre repertoire even during the World War II as well as after the city’s liberation.

Odessa Aida productions of different epochs featured lots of opera stars, namely Nadiya BULICHEVA, Titto RUFFO, Ivan ALCHEVSKY, Donato DONATOV, Raisa SERGIYENKO, Lyudmila SHIRINA and others.

The conductors were Joseph PRIBIK, Arnold MARGURYAN, Yaroslav VOSHCHAK, Boris GRUZIN and others.  


    October, 2018