Don’t let that apparent gap in the KSO’s concert schedule fool you– we are still plenty busy preparing for Knoxville Opera’s production of Aïda this coming Friday and Sunday. The grand finale of KOC’s 40th anniversary season will be a proper Grand Opera. The demanding vocal score is in good musical hands with soprano Michelle Johnson (as Aïda) and Dongwon Shin (as Radames) headlining.
Giuseppe Verdi stands the test of time as one of the most important opera composers ever. His composing career of 68 years nearly doubles Mozart’s entire lifespan. His own lifespan straddled those of Beethoven and Stravinsky. Operas from the 1840s, such as Macbeth and Nabucco, are just as stageworthy today as his final opera from 1893, Falstaff.
Early financial success at La Scala and other important European opera houses enabled Verdi to focus later in life on what came to mind, rather than be bound to commissions or the conventions of the day. There was a formula to many of his earlier works; I’ll admit as a performer that there is a certain predictability to some of them, but their appeal is more about the depth of emotion and sense of drama. That said, Aïda was in fact a commission; the Khedive of Egypt paid him the equivalent of $30,000 (1871 dollars– about $200k today) to create something to open the new Cairo Opera House. This premiere was conducted by the famous double-bass virtuoso, Giovanni Bottesini, and was an instant international success. Aïda (pronounced eye-EE-da) is more symphonic, with several “movements” rather than a collection of arias, choruses ensembles. The musical language here is much freer and there are many tempo fluctuations, but they are not taken to the garish extreme of some of Puccini’s works. If you’re still not convinced yet that you should attend, I have two words for you: Triumphal March.
Don’t miss us at the Civic Auditorium, Thursday at 7:30 or Sunday at 2:30. Or both!