In the history of the Salzburg Festival, Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera Aida was performed only once, in 1979, staged and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. For its return as the centerpiece of Markus Hinterhäuser’s first season as new intendant, the Salzburg Festival assembled a superb artistic team, making this production the most sought after and over-booked in the Festival’s history.
The supreme cast was led by Anna Netrebko in the title role, directed by Iranian-born New York based visual artist Shirin Neshat and conducted by the world’s finest Verdi conductor, Riccardo Muti.
“Anna Netrebko storms Salzburg”, wrote the New York Times about her highly anticipated debut as Aida, while the Neue Zürcher Zeitung praised Netrebko’s “perfection and immaculacy”. Francesco Meli, among the finest Verdi tenors of our time, scores as “vocally excellent” Radamès (Der Standard). Ekaterina Semenchuk, the “primadonna among the mezzosopranos” (FAZ) stuns in the role of Amneris and Luca Salsi, one of today’s most sought after baritones, is “a luxury” (Corriere della Sera) as Amonasro. Riccardo Muti “creates effects you didn’t quite think possible. The Vienna Philharmonic plays for him with astonishing virtuosity: strings of tactile fullness; tangy winds; bursts of ideally round and peppery brasses.” (New York Times)
While Aida is one of the most vulgarized pieces of opera literature, it is at the same time a deep reflection on the hierarchies of power. Being best-known for the sonic splendour of its famous “Triumphal Scene”, it is yet amongst Verdi’s most intimate works when focusing upon the private emotions experienced by the three victims of a tragic love triangle: Radamès, Egypt’s victorious captain of the guard, and the two rivalling women who adore him, the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris and her Ethiopian slave Aida.
Shirin Neshat, who won a Silver Lion as Best Director at the Venice Film Festival, is working across various visual mediums such as photography, video installation and film. While her early works explored the question of gender in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy, she later departed from overtly political content or critique in favour of more poetic imagery and complex human narratives. An approach that is also reflected in her debut work as an opera director and that picks up Neshat’s own experience of repression and exile. The sculptural stage by Christian Schmidt is an aesthetic masterpiece, doing without elephants and pyramids.