Great Performances at the Met presents “Aida” on Sunday, 9 June 2013 on PBS at 12 p.m. (Check local listings.) This performance was originally broadcast life on 15 December 2012 and the production is about as grand as opera can get.

Opera soprano Renée Fleming is our warm hostess for the event and she gets some backstage comments from the cast. Yet the real star of this production is the sets and the 200 artists on stage. That doesn’t even include the live horses.

If you know anything about horses, you know they aren’t easy to housebreak. This production features three on stage. Someone somewhere must have had to shovel manure, wondering if this was really in their job description. Yet from the comfort of our living room, this production doesn’t reek of manure. If Disney had made an Egyptian palace (who knows they just might some day), the set couldn’t be more wonderful and clean. Wouldn’t you like to believe that Ancient Egypt was as beautiful as all this?

Giuseppe Verdi’s 1871 opera is about Aida (Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska), an enslaved Ethiopian princess,  who has become the property of Princess Amneris (Olga Borodina). Aida is loved by the young handsome officer Radames (Roberto Alagna) who is loved by Amneris. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Radames is appointed the Egyptian commander as the Ethiopians advance on Thebes. Aida wants to cheer for her country and father, Amonasro (George Gagnidze), the kind of Ethiopia, but she also wants no harm to come to her love Radames.

Radames is triumphant, but Aida’s father, Amonasro is brought to Thebes as a captive.  Aida will be forced to choose between her father and her homeland and her love, Radames.

Don’t expect any of the fussy crowd scenes, but be prepared for a noble and proud Monastyrska as the determined Aida who would rather die than be a slave. The coolness of Monastyska’s Aida is matched against the woman who would be her mistress, a fiery Borodina as Amneris. This isn’t exactly a princess cat fight, but something much more elegant and melodic. Less complex is the object of their affections. Alagna’s Radames is handsome, but probably more in command on the battlefield than in the royal rooms where intrigue substitutes for swords but has equally lethal results.

Gary Halvorson directed the telecast. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi conducts his first company performances of the opera.

Sit back and enjoy this opera tear-jerker. Isn’t this what we go to opera for? Tragedy, heightened emotions and gorgeous costumes and great scenery. Great Performances at the Met presents “Aida” on Sunday, 9 June 2013 on PBS at 12 p.m. (Check local listings.)

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