After Aida

Last updated
After Aida
Written by Julian Mitchell
Characters Giuseppe Verdi
Arrigo Boito
Giulio Ricordi
Franco Faccio
Giuseppina Strepponi
Date premiered 1985
Place premiered Taliesin Theatre
Swansea, Wales
Original language English
Subject Biography of
Giuseppe Verdi
Genre Drama, musical, suspense, comedy
Setting 1879–1887; Italy

After Aida (original title: Verdi's Messiah) is a 1985 play-with-music by Julian Mitchell. It is about Giuseppe Verdi, and the pressure put upon him after his attempt to retire from composing. Continued insistent prodding from his friends eventually results in one of his greatest masterpieces, the opera Otello , which premiered in 1887.

Charles Julian Humphrey Mitchell FRSL is an English playwright, screenwriter and occasional novelist. He is best known as the writer of the play and film Another Country, and as a screenwriter for TV, producing many original plays and series episodes, including at least ten for Inspector Morse.

Giuseppe Verdi 19th-century Italian opera composer

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.

<i>Otello</i> opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.


Background and inception

Brian McMaster, managing director of the Welsh National Opera, commissioned the play, originally as a vehicle for the company's touring season to far-flung Welsh towns with smaller theatres than the average opera house. McMaster initially asked Julian Mitchell, author of the hit play-turned-film Another Country , to write about the backstage life of an opera company. Mitchell, although he had been an opera fan in his youth, knew little about this milieu when he began working on the project.

Welsh National Opera (WNO) is an opera company based in Cardiff, Wales; it gave its first performances in 1946. It began as a mainly amateur body and transformed into an all-professional ensemble by 1973. In its early days the company gave a single week's annual season in Cardiff, gradually extending its schedule to become an all-year-round operation, with its own salaried chorus and orchestra. It has been described by The New York Times as "one of the finest operatic ensembles in Europe".

<i>Another Country</i> (play) play written by Julian Mitchell

Another Country is a play written by the English playwright Julian Mitchell. It premiered on 5 November 1981 at the Greenwich Theatre, London, and transferred to the West End in March 1982. The play has developed a strong connection with Oxford Playhouse, which revived the play in 2000 in a new production directed by Stephen Henry. It was revived again at Oxford Playhouse in February 2013 by OUDS-supported Oxford University student company Screw the Looking Glass. In September 2013 a successful collaboration between Theatre Royal Bath and Chichester Festival Theatre was directed by Jeremy Herrin, transferring to Trafalgar Studios in 2014.

In the course of his extensive research, however, Mitchell happened on "Boito and Verdi", the final chapter in Frank Walker's biography The Man Verdi. [1] This was a dramatic situation that immediately appealed to him – "a great artist going through a crisis, brought back to composition after a long silence, and finding himself a substitute prodigal son in the process" – and he took it as his subject matter. [2]

To familiarize himself with backstage and off-stage opera life, Mitchell took singing lessons, attended opera rehearsals and auditions, and talked to conductors, singers, directors, répétiteurs, and designers. Mitchell said he found that the restrictions placed on the piece—small stage, single set, and only a few actors—actually became liberating, and helped him create a well-crafted and artistically sound play. [2]

A répétiteur is an accompanist, tutor or coach of ballet dancers or opera singers.


The two-act play spans the years from 1879 to 1887, and centers around the composer Verdi and his life and works after he has retired from composing and moved to his country estate.

Verdi's two friends, Giulio Ricordi the publisher and Franco Faccio the conductor, convinced that Verdi should write another opera, try to persuade him to come out of retirement and collaborate with the young librettist Arrigo Boito on a new work. One likely subject for a new opera is the play Othello , since Shakespeare is one of Verdi's favourite authors. Verdi's wife Giuseppina Strepponi, tired of seeing him moping about, also assists in the attempt to get Verdi composing again.

Giulio Ricordi Italian musician

Giulio Ricordi was an Italian editor and musician who joined the family firm, the Casa Ricordi music publishing house, in 1863, then run by his father, Tito, the son of the company's founder Giovanni Ricordi. Upon his father's death in 1888, Giulio became the head of the company until his death.

Franco Faccio Italian composer and conductor

Francesco (Franco) Antonio Faccio was an Italian composer and conductor. Born in Verona, he studied music at the Milan Conservatory from 1855 where he was a pupil of Stefano Ronchetti-Monteviti and, as scholar William Ashbrook notes, "where he struck up a lifelong friendship with Arrigo Boito, two years his junior" and with whom he was to collaborate in many ways.

Arrigo Boito Italian opera composer and librettist of Verdis opera Otello

Arrigo Boito, was an Italian poet, journalist, novelist, librettist and composer, best known today for his libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi's operas Otello and Falstaff, and his own opera Mefistofele. Along with Emilio Praga, and his own brother Camillo Boito he is regarded as one of the prominent representatives of the Scapigliatura artistic movement.

The play focuses on this major turning point in Verdi’s creative life, and combines it with a selection of opera excerpts, drama, and humor. The production is punctuated with full arias and vocal ensembles from Aida , Rigoletto , Ernani , the Requiem , Macbeth , Simon Boccanegra , and Otello . Also included are arias from Boito's Mefistofele and Rossini's Otello .

<i>Aida</i> opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, it was commissioned by Cairo's Khedivial Opera House and had its première there on 24 December 1871, in a performance conducted by Giovanni Bottesini. Today the work holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world; at New York's Metropolitan Opera alone, Aida has been sung more than 1,100 times since 1886. Ghislanzoni's scheme follows a scenario often attributed to the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, but Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz argues that the source is actually Temistocle Solera.

<i>Rigoletto</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851.

<i>Ernani</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo.

Original productions

After Aida opened on 24 October 1985 in Swansea, Wales, at the Taliesin Theatre. As planned, the production then toured to 11 other towns and cities throughout Wales.

The production starred Richard Griffiths (Verdi) and Ian Charleson (Boito), with a supporting cast that included four singers from the Welsh National Opera. It was directed by Howard Davies, and the music director was Martin Andre. The show was produced by Robert Fox with Ed and David Mirvish.

After Aida received its London premiere at the Old Vic theatre, opening on 11 March 1986. Giuseppina Strepponi was played by Gemma Jones, and the other cast members remained the same, except for a new cast of WNO singers.

Original cast

Additional performers, from the Welsh National Opera:

The 1986 London cast was the same except for Gemma Jones, who played Giuseppina Strepponi. The singers, from the WNO, were as follows: sopranos Elizabeth Collier and Christine Teare, mezzo-sopranos Beverley Mills and Wendy Verco, tenors John Harris and Mark Hamilton, baritones Henry Newman and Steven Page, and pianists Martin Andre and Michael Lloyd.

Critical reception and publication

After Aida has received largely favorable reviews, [3] and has been praised for its intelligence, humor, and panache. The Sunday Times review said "the plot ... is quite riveting.... For all that we know the outcome, it has us on tenterhooks!” [4] The play has occasionally been compared to Amadeus , with After Aida being noted for its accuracy, thoughtfulness, and erudition, and Amadeus having the edge in terms of raw dramatic impact. [5]

After Aida was published in 1986 by Amber Lane Press.

Related Research Articles

<i>Falstaff</i> (opera) opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Falstaff is a comic opera in three acts by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. The work premiered on 9 February 1893 at La Scala, Milan.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

Giuseppina Strepponi Italian singer

Clelia Maria Josepha (Giuseppina) Strepponi was a nineteenth-century Italian operatic soprano of great renown and the second wife of composer Giuseppe Verdi.

<i>Amleto</i> opera by Franco Faccio

Amleto is an opera in four acts by Franco Faccio set to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Hamlet. It premiered on 30 May 1865 at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa and was revised for a La Scala production given on 12 February 1871.

Scapigliatura is the name of an artistic movement that developed in Italy after the Risorgimento period (1815–1871). The movement included poets, writers, musicians, painters and sculptors. The term Scapigliatura is the Italian equivalent of the French "bohème" (bohemian), literally meaning "unkempt" or "dishevelled".

<i>Quattro pezzi sacri</i>

The Quattro pezzi sacri are choral works by Giuseppe Verdi. Written separately during the last decades of the composer's life and with different origins and purposes, they were nevertheless published together in 1898 by Casa Ricordi. They are often performed as a cycle, not in chronological sequence of their composition, but in the sequence used in the Ricordi publication:

Anda-Louise Bogza is a celebrated Romanian opera soprano. In 1994, she won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Vienna International Singing Competition. In 2007, she was honored with the Thalia Award.

Romilda Pantaleoni Italian soprano

Romilda Pantaleoni was an Italian soprano who had a prolific opera career in Italy during the 1870s and 1880s. She sang a wide repertoire that encompassed bel canto roles, Italian and French grand opera, verismo operas, and the German operas of Richard Wagner. She became particularly associated with the roles of Margherita in Boito's Mefistofele and the title role in Ponchielli's La Gioconda; two roles which she performed in opera houses throughout Italy. She is best remembered today for originating the roles of Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi's Otello (1887) and Tigrana in Giacomo Puccini's Edgar (1889). Universally admired for her acting skills as well as her singing abilities, Pantaleoni was compared by several critics to the great Italian stage actress Eleonora Duse.

Teresa Stolz Czech opera singer

Teresa Stolz was a Bohemian soprano, long resident in Italy, who was associated with significant premieres of the works of Giuseppe Verdi, and may have been his mistress. She has been described as "the Verdian dramatic soprano par excellence, powerful, passionate in utterance, but dignified in manner and secure in tone and control".

<i>House of Ricordi</i> 1954 film by Carmine Gallone

House of Ricordi is a 1954 French-Italian historical melodrama film based on the early history of the Italian music publishing house Casa Ricordi. It is directed by Carmine Gallone and stars Märta Torén, Marcello Mastroianni and Micheline Presle. The Ricordi family's interactions with many of the great composers of the nineteenth century are portrayed.

Casa di Riposo per Musicisti retirement home

The Casa di Riposo per Musicisti is a home for retired opera singers and musicians in Milan, northern Italy, founded by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. The building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by Italian architect, Camillo Boito. Both Verdi and his wife, Giuseppina Strepponi are buried there. A documentary film about life in the Casa di Riposo, Il Bacio di Tosca, was made in 1984 by the Swiss director Daniel Schmid.

Iva Pacetti was an Italian operatic soprano who had an active international career from 1920-1947. Trained in Florence and Milan, she made her professional opera debut in her native city at the age of 21 as the title heroine in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida at the Teatro Metastasio. She reprised the role the following year at Loew's Lexington Theatre in New York City. In 1922 she had a triumphant success at the Teatro Carlo Felice as Elena in Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele. Engagements with other important opera houses soon followed, including La Scala, the Teatro Costanzi, the Teatro di San Carlo, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Chicago Civic Opera, the Teatro Colón, the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, and the Theatro Municipal in São Paulo. From 1930-1933 she was committed to the Royal Opera House in London, portraying such roles as Desdemona in Otello, Leonora in La forza del destino, and the title role in Tosca. The latter years of her career were spent performing primarily at La Scala where she was a frequent partner of Beniamino Gigli. She retired from the stage in 1947, after which she was active as a voice teacher in Milan.

Frances Ginsberg American opera soprano

Frances Ginsberg was an American opera singer. Opera News magazine described her as "a lirico-spinto soprano of striking temperament whose vivid style made her an audience favorite at New York City Opera and other U.S. companies in the 1980s and 1990s."

The Life of Verdi is a 1982 Italian-language biographical television miniseries directed by Renato Castellani dramatizing the life of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Castellani also co-wrote the original script with Leonardo Benvenuti and Piero De Bernardi. The English version was written by Gene Luotto and narrated by Burt Lancaster. The miniseries first aired in 1982, and was made available on DVD in 2003.

<i>Inno delle nazioni</i> cantata by Giuseppe Verdi

Inno delle nazioni, a cantata in a single movement, is one of only two secular choral works composed by Giuseppe Verdi. This Hymn incorporates "God Save the King", "La Marseillaise", and "Il Canto degli Italiani". It was the first collaboration between the composer and Arrigo Boito, who, much later, would revise the libretto of Simon Boccanegra and write the original libretti of Otello and Falstaff.



  1. Walker, Frank. The Man Verdi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982 (paperback edition). pp. 447–510.
  2. 1 2 Mitchell, Julian. After Aida. Amber Lane Press, 1986. pp. 5–9.
  3. Review snippets on Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  4. After Aida at the Internet Theater Bookshop ( Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  5. Banham, Martin. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge University Press, 1995. p. 754.