Het Muziektheater Amsterdam – Aida, Arabische prinses verdwaald op koninginnedag
For the 25th anniversary of the Muziektheater Amsterdam (home of the Dutch National Opera and the National Ballet) I was asked to artistically lead a festival of over 25 performances in- and outside the Muziektheater. The goal was to reach as many new audience groups as possible. We did that by programming performances on the streets and squares of Amsterdam. People came across a performance of l’Elisir d ‘Amore on the market place, a Traviata flashmop with 250 singers in a shopping mall, a clogs choreography by Hans van Maanen with 150 dance students, a Parsifal adaptation in a botanic garden etc. On the other hand we also invited them inside this theatre where we created three performances in the big hall. Two of them were in my regie: Aida, Arabische prinses verdwaald op Koninginnendag and Ringetje.
Aida for me is an opera about a society. Since the society I live in at the moment is taking a course that is very difficult for me to understand, I wanted to tell the story of the Netherlands today. A land that is more and more being ruled with the fear of the unknown and the aversion of sophisticated thought. I gave myself the assignment not to judge or to condemn but to look at all parties with the same compassion in an attempt to understand this phenomenon better. Together with cabaretier and theatre maker Minou Bosua I tried to recreate Aida to tell that story.
Aida used to be a Nubian princess but was captured and made a slave in Egypt. She is being torn between Radames (her love in her new land who is a leader in the war against her country) and her father representing the values of her home, her history and her roots. This dilemma is very close to the one many people with a migration background in Europe are faced with today. Having to deal with a completely new status and being torn between cultures and ideologies that seem to be at war with each other is an everyday problem for many people in, for instance, Amsterdam.
Next to the original Verdi cast (orchestra, soloists and chorus), we worked with actors, a gospel chorus, classical- and break dancers, two Turkish percussionists and a cabaretier to tell this story in the broadest possible perspective. I also asked the German- Turkish composer Sinem Altan to write an answer to Verdi’s oriental quotes in this opera. Between the original Aida parts, she composed new music going to the roots of the musical styles that Verdi is referring to and taking them to the extreme.
Set on Queens day, the Dutch national holiday on which we refresh our national trading spirit by clearing out our attics, a character (is she a god or a man?) starts telling a story. From the huge group of people she selects a few to play the parts of Aida, Radames, etc. She hands out clothes picked up from clothing racks, assembles bits of the spread out merchandise to form a set and soon we get drawn deep into the story of a triangle love affair, war, national pride etc. The scenes are not only played but sung and danced as well so that the dilemma’s are shown in different layers. Both Egypt and Holland are being shown, both the voice of Amneris is heard and that of a whole nation, both Aida and the gospel chorus express their longing for their homes. The victory parade when Radames comes home after the war is in our piece ‘the Dutch Pride Parade’ which starts with a sweet Dutch traditional song in gospel version but ends up in pure xenophobia. The death of Radames and Aida comes after a tribunal of the people and is stripped of all its romance. Then however, we go one step further. We don’t stop at this death or at the failure of a society. We go on. With hope. Hope, shown in art. Two singers sing the beautiful ending of this opera while five break dancers express their feelings about the piece on this music. Two genres so far apart doing the same thing: Making the unbearable a bit more bearable. Providing comfort in hopeless meaninglessness.
Music: Giuseppe Verdi- Sinem Altan, Conductor: Otto Tausk, Concept and regie: Lotte de Beer, texts and co-regie: Minou Bosua, Set design: Marouscha Levy, Costume design: Hanne Oosterveer, Light design: Cor van den Brink, Dans regie: Nita Liem, Choreographer National Ballet:Daniela Cardim, Dramaturg: Bart Boonen, With: Minou Bosua, Meral Polat, Bob Stoop, Simone van Bennekom,Ali Cifteci, Kelly God, Kor Jan Dusseljee, Wilke te Brummelstroete, Bastiaan Evereink, Donna Chittick, Rajiv Bhagwanbali, Sayonara Prika, Raymond den Uijl, Jort Reinders, the national dans academy, the chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, Zo! Gospel chorus, Holland Symfonia