In Houston, the Opera ‘Aida’ Returns as Ethiopia-Egypt Tensions Dominate News

The timeless opera 'Aida' — the epic love story between an Egyptian General and an enslaved Ethiopian princess amid a conflict between their two countries over the Nile -- opened at the Houston Grand Opera last week bringing a modern take to the old fictional story. The show opens as current Ethiopia-Egypt negotiations over the use of the Nile river continues. Below is a review of the opera by Houstonia Magazine. (IMAGE: LYNN LANE)

Houstonia Magazine

Aida Returns to Houston Grand Opera Stage in Modernized Take on Verdi Classic

AMERICAN TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS MAKES A DOUBLE DEBUT in Houston Grand Opera’s production of ​Aida​, a sweeping tale of love and tragedy amid war written by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1871. It’s the first time he’s sung the male lead of Radames, and the first time he’s appearing with Houston Grand Opera. The Atlanta-based Thomas admits he’s feeling some pressure but thinks he’s ready.

“The rehearsal process has been great so far, and I’m very familiar with Verdi,” says Thomas, who has performed the composer’s work around the world.

In Aida,​ Radames, an Egyptian army commander during the time of the pharaohs, is in love with an Ethiopian slave, Aida. However, he’s unaware that she is, in fact, a princess and the daughter of the Ethiopian king who’s marching on Egypt. Meanwhile, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, is in love with Radames, and, discovering his relationship with Aida, becomes enraged with jealousy. When Radames unwittingly reveals military plans to Aida, Amneris turns him in as a traitor.

Convicted and sentenced to death, Radames is buried alive in a tomb. He accepts his fate, hoping that Aida has escaped. Instead, she has hidden herself in the tomb to wait for him so they can die in each other’s arms. When she first appears, he’s unsure if she’s real. “In this production, we play it as if he’s hallucinating when he first sees her,” says Thomas. “The air is going out of the tomb, that’s affecting him. He doesn’t know if she’s real until they start singing together.”

HGO’s modernized version of the Verdi classic also features American soprano Tamara Wilson, an HGO Studio alumna, as Aida. It’s a role she’s sung before with companies including the Sydney’s Opera Australia, The Metropolitan Opera, and the Washington National Opera. Thomas and Wilson, who are set to reprise their roles in ​Aida in Toronto later this season, have previously worked together in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Il Trovatore and the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Verdi’s Othello. Thomas has also worked with American soprano Melody Moore, who alternates the role of Amneris with mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin.

The role of Radames has two big challenges for Thomas, who The New York Times previously called “a tenor of gorgeously burnished power.”

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Related:

US-Brokered Nile Dam Deal Still Deadlocked (VOA)

Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan say final agreement on Blue Nile dam ready by next month (Reuters)

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