How do you update and reinterpret a venerated opera for contemporary audiences? Look no further than Elton John and Tim Rice.
Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, a pop-rock musical take on Giuseppe Verdi’s 1871 Italian-language opera, will play at the National Theater from May 16 to May 20. Premiering in 2000, the Disney-produced show has so far picked up four Tony Awards and the current international touring production has been staged in 20 countries.
“Audiences look to contemporary composers and lyricists to say what may have been said before but in a way that belongs to us,” production director Daniel Stewart told the Taipei Times in an e-mail interview. “Who better than Elton John and Tim Rice to transform the ancient tale of Aida into a pop-rock phantasmagoria?”
The English-language show originated from a children’s storybook version of Verdi’s opera written by the soprano Leontyne Price and is composed of two acts.
The plot focuses on the love story between the enslaved Nubian princess Aida (actress Marja Harmon) and an Egyptian soldier, Radames (actor Casey Elliott). As their forbidden love flourishes, the lovers are forced to face death or part forever.
Aida is the product of pop superstar John and lyricist Rice’s second collaboration with Disney, the first being the blockbuster animation feature The Lion King in 1994.
“Elton and Tim treat the tale as an allegory addressing issues of moral, social and political significance,” Stewart said. “This Aida is a unique pop dreamscape of the plight of individuals caught up in the storm of political events.”
John, a pop icon mostly known for tunes such as Sorry Seems to Be the Last Word and Your Song, has enjoyed an illustrious four-decade plus career and has sold more than 250 million records.
WHAT: Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida
WHEN: 7:30pm on May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19 and May 20; 2:30pm on May 19 and May 20
WHERE: National Theater, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$800 to NT$5800, available at NTCH box office, online at www.artsticket.com.tw and www.kham.com.tw and 7-Eleven ibon kiosk
ON THE NET: www.bigleague.org/aida/show.htm
His score for Aida spans several genres including R ’n’ B, gospel, romantic ballads and Crocodile Rock-style songs.
“Pop-rock music is the language understood around the world,” said Stewart. “A global audience’s ear is attuned to and familiar with the sound. They have immediate ‘access’ to the performance because they know the style of the music.”
Among the production’s 23 songs, two stand out as highlights.
Written in the Star is sung by the doomed lovers Aida and Radames in a touching moment of crisis when the lovers question the intervention of fate in their tragic and inevitable separation. Both savor the rapture of love found but before long experience exquisite suffering. The song was released by country pop star LeAnn Rimes as a single in 1999 and went on to be certified gold in the US later the same year.
The other standout is the beautiful prologue Every Story Is a Love Story, which poetically sets the mood of the story: “Every story, new or ancient/ Bagatelle or work of art/ All are tales of human failing.”
“We all may recognize that the poetry of human tragedy emerges alongside the farcical and surreal. We may ask if duty reaches beyond the scope of personal fulfillment,” Stewart said. “Finally, the dream world of this museum may invite us to contemplate the transcendent nature of love.”