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Ismail commissions "Aida" from Verdi

Reader comment on item: "Cairo and the Age of the Hedonists"

Submitted by Dave Nelson (United States), Nov 24, 2006 at 17:36

Your blog entry titled "Cairo and the Age of the Hedonists" came to me one day after I had listened to Maria Callas and Mario del Monaco in EMI's recording of a 1951 performance of "Aida" in Mexico City. In the text accompanying the CDs, Ulrich Schreiber describes how, in 1869, Ismail Pasha (Khedive of Egypt) commissioned Verdi to write an opera to be performed as part of the celebration of the opening of the Suez Canal and the opening of the new Italian opera house in Cairo. [Ismail chose Verdi over Wagner and Gounod.]

The libretto for "Aida" was based on a story by the French Egyptologist Edouard Mariette and (apparently) had been endorsed by Ismail. The first performance of "Aida' took place in Cairo on 24 December, 1871 and was enthusiastically received. For me, reading Schreiber's history of "Aida" prepared me well for your comments on Trevor Mostyn's "Egypt's Belle Époque: … ."

Although Verdi's music and the libretto based on Mariette's story are distinctly Italian, the premier performance in Cairo featured Arab trumpeters, an indigenous military band and local singers and dancers. A blending of cultures had been achieved. The contrast with the Cairo of today could not be much greater.

Submitting....

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