It had been missing for 37 years: at the Festival on stage the lyrical performance of the year. Almost 15 minutes of applause. A setting that has removed all decorativity and superficial giganticism.

The return after 37 years

Aida in Salzburg is the lyric show of the year. Almost fifteen minutes of applause would have been more if Riccardo Muti did not nod with his hand that was enough. The setting is by Shirin Neshat’s Iranian video artist, his absolute debut, as was the Radames Francesco Meli, the Amonasro Luca Salsi and the leading singer Anna Netrebko, the divine of our time. A minimalist setting that has removed any decorative and superficial gigantism, a title that at the world’s largest music festival was missing for 37 years (Karajan). But there is a bit of bitterness. “It has been noted by all – says Muti – that the German opera chancellor Angela Merkel has come to Austria to hear an Italian opera directed by an Italian and many Italian singers in the cast. But there was no representative among the politicians in our country. ” After the first, gala dinner for hundreds of people who have paid off hundreds of euros. President Helga Rabl-Stadler and the new “intendant” Markus Hinterhäuser said it was a new Aida, Muti replied that this is not the case: “It’s the Aida just as Verdi wrote it.” Then he went to the meeting for the 175 years of the Wiener Philharmoniker, which represent the gravitation center of the festival.

The conductor Riccardo Muti

The real reason for Aida today seems to be a sort of tourist attraction, especially in the big arenas, where there are masses that move, animals and exaggerated ballets. An Aida as an exportation object where the solitude of the protagonist is accompanied by the wandering of palm trees and trinkets that make no sense. But this work is not a musical one. It has extreme delicacy and instrumental finesse, because it is based on the relationship between a few characters, with an idea of extreme loneliness. The moment of triumph is due to the celebratory occasion for which it was composed, the opening of the Suez Canal. But it is a work of great intimacy.

The director Shirin Neshat

At the beginning I was disoriented, my relationship with the opera was minimal, when I was young  I listened to Persian and Arabic music. So when Hinterhäuser asked me to direct Aida, I thought he was crazy. I slowly gained a taste for this music. My first emotional reaction was for the choir. Then I fell in love with the aries of the three protagonists. As the director of the opera you have to interpret a story written by others, as an Iranian artist you grown with the authoritarian concept of the boundaries. Ironically, I understand that these limits can give you freedom. I explored a new art form immersing myself in Aida as an experiment for a visual artist.

Aida Anna Netrebko

Aida is a woman full of love and passion, tormented by having to choose between the man she loves, the leader of the enemy army, and her people. I’ve always said I love strong characters, superwomen. On the musical stage, Aida’s role is extraordinary and I consider it a challenge. Humanity at the end prevails over the brutal force of politics and religious tyranny. Often the love between Aida and Radames is not clear enough: why does he loves her when there is a beautiful and powerful woman like Amneris next to him? However, at the end Radames and Aida decide to die together in peace with pride and grace. Aida lives through all sorts of emotions, especially in her two great arias. I enjoyed the videos: they emphasize the aspect of history from the Ethiopians, in tradition seen only as slaves during the triumphal march.

In the photo: Riccardo Muti and Anna Netrebko

by Valerio Cappelli

from CORRIERE DELLA SERA, August 2017