This article will cover two finales, those to the second and fourth acts of Verdi’s Aida. Verdi’s Egyptian opera dates to the time when Benjamin Britten said Verdi had discovered the secret of perfection. The finale to the second scene of act 2, the triumphal scene, is a god-like demonstration of how to handle large forces. A brief description of the action of this scene is below. I’ve taken it from the Met’s website.
At the city gates the king and Amneris observe the celebrations and crown Radamès with a victor’s wreath. Captured Ethiopians are led in. Among them is Amonasro, Aida’s father, who signals his daughter not to reveal his identity as king. Radamès is impressed by Amonasro’s eloquent plea for mercy and asks for the death sentence on the prisoners to be overruled and for them to be freed. The king grants his request but keeps Amonasro in custody. The king declares that as a victor’s reward, Radamès will have Amneris’s hand in marriage.
There are more recordings of Aida than a peacock has feathers. The one I’ve chosen was recorded in 1955 under the direction Jonel Perlea. It has a cast that would be hard to match at any time since the opera’s premiere in Cairo in 1871. Zinka Milanov was the Met’s preeminent Aida during the forties and early fifties. She sang the role with the company a record 75 times. She was the greatest Verdi soprano I ever heard. Jussi Björling’s voice was too small to attempt Radamès at the old Met, but it’s ideal on a recording. Fedora Barbieri was a leading mezzo of the post World War II period, though her career lasted to the nineties. She sang Amneris 10 times at the Met. Leonard Warren was the great Verdi baritone of the mid 20th century. He sang Amonasro 58 times at the Met. Boris Christoff was the great dramatic bass of the mid 20th century, but never got to sing at the Met because of a screw up I have previously described. Despite being more than 60 years old this recording still conveys all the grandeur and passion of Verdi’ stupendous score.
The finale of this scene could be said to start immediately after the ballet. I’ve included the music that starts after the Ethiopian captives have been led in. Verdi’s conclusion of the gigantic ensemble with a reprise of the famous march theme is a stroke of the highest genius. Aida Act 2 finale
Verdi chose to end his massive opera with the most intimate of music. Aida has hidden in the vault to share Radamès’s fate. They express their love for the last time while Amneris, in the temple above, prays for Radamès’s soul. (Also taken from the Met’s website.) Here Milanov and Björling full realize Verdi’s tender farewell to life – ‘O terra addio’. Aida Act 4 finale
Because of the numbering used in the title I have avoided confronting triskaidekaphobia. The next finale will be 14.