We saw the opera version of the show, which was in Italian. Neither Katie nor I had ever been to an opera before, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. First of all, it’s very different from a regular stage play—there’s not a lot of action or blocking; through a lot of it, the company just stands onstage, facing the audience, and singing. (In fact, the whole thing is singing; there’s no dialogue.) It sounds difficult to interpret, but there are subtitles above the stage, cast there by a projector.
We have a diverse range of characters before us. In the beginning, we are introduced to Aida, an Ethiopian, who is slave to Amneris, the rich, prima donna daughter of the Pharaoh. Both girls are in love with young officer Radames, who is to fight the Ethiopian army, at the head of Egypt’s. They are also unaware of each other’s feelings for Radames, and both confident that he loves her, and her alone.
In truth, Radames loves only Aida, who, unbeknownst to him, Amneris, or anyone else, is herself a princess, daughter of the Ethiopian King, Amonasro. This causes great grief and torment for Aida, who sings a long song about how she is uncertain whether she loves her father or her lover more, and how to choose between them, and for the gods to please have mercy on her.
Amneris, sensing something in the way Aida and Radames look at each other, grows suspicious about Aida and her feelings for Radames. She devises the ingenious plot to tell Aida that Radames has been killed in battle, to determine from her bodily responses how she feels about him.
We see Amneris sitting on a little couch, being fanned by slaves with giant leaves. At this point, two slaves in teeny bikinis take the stage to dance to a long instrumental number. The girls dance poorly for a while (seriously…the dancing was really bad), and Amneris, evidently growing weary of the atrocious spectacle, orders everyone but Aida out of the room. She then carries out her brilliant plan of attack on Aida, informing her that Radames is dead. Shamelessly, Aida immediately crumples into a heap on the floor, weeping, and singing a long song to the gods for mercy. Amneris stands back, watching this, enjoying herself, before she finally decides to reveal herself.
AMNERIS: Haha, bitch—I lied! I deceived you! Radames is not dead! But now I know you love him!
Aida, again with no attempt at all to reveal her feelings, flies into the air, does some cartwheels, and breaks into a little victory dance, while the Hallelujah! chorus plays in the background.
AMNERIS: *laughs evilly* Now I really know you love him! But you can’t have him! You must come to the victory celebration and watch him profess his love to me!
Aida weeps and sings a long song to the gods for mercy.
We go to the victory celebration at Thebes, where the stage is crowded by the whole cast. The two slaves in slightly different teeny bikini-skirt ensembles, this time joined by a male slave with an even shorter skirt, dance across the stage. One of the girls’ skirt lifts up in the back about halfway through this, and the guy…well, let’s just say his skirt didn’t have to lift—his ass was already hanging out the bottom of it. The priests, the high priest, the Pharaoh, Amneris, Radames, Aida, and all the captured Ethiopians all stand statue-still behind them, stony-faced, and solemnly observing all.
After the dance number, the slaves exit the scene, and everyone starts celebrating Radames’ victory and the end of the dancing. Aida spots her father across the stage and runs to him, shouting for all to hear.
AMONASRO: Shh! Not so loud! Don’t let everyone know that I’m the King!
Aida falls silent, and then the Pharaoh offers Radames whatever he wants in return for winning the battle against Ethiopia. Radames asks that all the slaves be freed, and this is granted, but the Pharaoh and High Priest decide to hold onto Amonasro, now that everyone knows he is Aida’s father.
Because in most situations of a similar nature, the hero would ask for the princess’ hand in marriage, and Radames doesn’t ask for this, the Pharaoh takes it on himself to just offer it to Radames anyway.
PHARAOH: Radames, handsome young hero, you now have my permission to wed my beautiful young daughter!
RADAMES: Oh, but I really don’t want—
RADAMES: Um…okay, dude. Whatever.
We next see Aida, alone, singing a long song to the gods about how pretty her homeland is, and how she misses it because it has flowers and green fields and fragrant soil (and she asks for mercy, too).
Amonasro appears out of nowhere.
AMONASRO: You are not a slave, and you and Radames will be married and live happily ever after in Ethiopia!
AIDA: No we can’t, or Amneris will kill him! And what the hell are you talking about?—I am too a slave!
AMONASRO: I renounce you as my daughter and as an Ethiopian!
AIDA: I’m so sorry, Daddy! Please forgive me! Forgive me! I’m not a slave! I’m your precious Ethiopian daughter!
AMONASRO: Radames is coming. Quick, let me hide. I will be listening to your conversation.
AIDA: Radames! Darling!
RADAMES: Aida! I love you! Let us be married!
AIDA: We can’t! You have to marry that whore now! And it’s all your fault!
RADAMES: We can run away together!
AIDA: But Amneris will kill you if we do!
RADAMES: We can run away to the vast Egyptian desert! No one will ever find us there!
AIDA: But they will find us there! We must run away to my homeland, because it’s pretty and it has flowers and green fields and fragrant soil!
AIDA: We can have sex in the flowers and green fields and fragrant soil of my pretty homeland!
RADAMES: Dude, let’s go! But which way? The Egyptians are going to try to break into Ethiopia from this really specific route, and here are the exact coordinates of where they will be hiding!
AMONASRO: HaHA! I tricked you! Now my troops will know where to go to slaughter your troops!
AMNERIS: HaHA! I tricked you, too! Now I know you really love her!
RAMFIS (THE HIGH PRIEST): HaHA! I, too, have tricked you! Now I know you’re a traitor and you are the Ethiopian king!
Radames gets all pissed at Aida for tricking him, and she and Amonasro escape so that she can sing long songs to the gods to pray for mercy. Then she decides to kill herself because she’ll never see Radames again or have sex with him in her pretty homeland with the flowers and green fields and fragrant soil.
Radames, furious with himself, turns himself in to the priests as a traitor, and the two dancing girls come out and do a mournful dance because they, sadly, don’t really know how to dance.
Amneris then offers Radames his life in return for his love.
AMNERIS: If you act like you don’t know Aida exists, and you just forget everything that has happened and come and marry me, I promise no one will kill you!
RADAMES: WTF bitch, you just condemned the girl I love to die! Hell no, never!
AMNERIS: Well fine…then you can die, too, for all I care!
RADAMES: As you wish. (Bitch.)
Radames is buried in the tomb. He breaks into a long song to the gods about how sad he is that he will never see his true love again. When he is done, Aida appears out of the shadows.
RADAMES: Aida! My love! What are you doing here!?
AIDA: I was going to kill myself anyway, but then I figured—why not just come and die in your arms instead?
RADAMES: That was such a stupid idea! Thank you!
AIDA: No problem…I figured maybe we could have sex first too, before we die.
RADAMES: What was that?
AIDA: I didn’t say anything.
RADAMES: …I heard something….
And then they sing a song about how happy they will be once they are dead and together in Heaven, which is far prettier and greener and fragranter than Ethiopia.
Amneris sits on top of the tomb and sings a song about how sorry she is that she’s such a bitch and that the guy she loves is now going to die (and she prays for peace, too).
KATIE: …Why doesn’t she just get a bunch of her friends together to help roll the stone out of the way…?
Bottom line: The singing was good, the plot was good, the acting was mediocre, and the dancing…sucked.