Aïda for all

This is the spring of literary tragedy at our house. I don’t mean lost library books or a procrastinated novel-in-the-works (though that wouldn’t be unheard of), I mean tragedy of Shakespearean and Verdi-esque ilk: Romeo and Juliet and Aïda.

Because I kicked off K’s 9th grade curriculum with R & J, family movie night a few Fridays ago was Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. The 8-year-old didn’t stay for the whole thing (good thing, actually, because I’d forgotten how intense some of the later scenes are), and the 12-year-old said it was way too sad.

So with that track record, I’m prepping everyone to see Aïda! This spring our two choices for big operas at the Sydney Opera House are Madame Butterfly and the Ethiopian/Egyptian tale of woe and tragedy. Building on the kids’ natural fascination with ancient Egypt, I think the spectacle and music of Aïda will be fabulous, even for the 8-and 12-year-olds—with enough familiarity, pre-teaching, and exposure. Our 14-year-old, of course, is the main reason we’re going. She loves opera and I’m lucky enough to be trailing along behind her, learning as we go.

A French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette, created the plot for Aïda and helped design the costumes. I first became acquainted with the name Mariette during my short sojourn in Egypt 16 years ago; he discovered a vast amount of ancient Egyptian monuments, tombs, and temples.

Aïda was first performed in Cairo, on Dec 24, 1871. I think it would make for a rather sad and stunning Christmas Eve.

This famous poster is from the 1908 production in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here’s a list of resources, should you (or I) want to take kids to the opera again:

We bought the Leontyne Price Aïda highlights. We’ve tried just having this on in the background, but we need to really give it our full attention.

We’ve watched and listened to the San Francisco Opera’s rendition on youtube.

This site has a great idea for making opera lapbooks.

Manitoba Opera’s website has a good brief bio of Verdi.

Sydney Opera House website to peruse.

Opera Australia’s website is full of learning links, synopses, etc.

I’m using the idea of a lapbook to create synopsis-based, follow-along and illustrate-your-own books for the kids.

20-page booklet, sewn and ready to write and draw in.

S’s booklet cover with eye of Horus and ankh.

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