Maestro Riccardo Chailly may be having a full-out panic attack during this last frantic week before the monumental La Prima of the refurbished Verdi's Aida at Teatro alla Scala …or, he may be onto something quite innovative. An article from Monday’s Corriere della Sera has published an interview with il Maestro, regarding what he believes is the esoteric and secretive nature that Aida actually shrouds.
The article explains that a new reading inside Verdi’s score for Aida reveals something disquieting and sublime. Nor is it something that exists in any other of Verdi’s twenty-seven other operas. There is a musical formula that exists in three parts, a "code" based on the number three, which is repeated in the score twenty-seven times (with twenty-seven being the end equation of 3x9). It’s an obsessive sequence that is just like the destiny that leads the lovers of Aida to death, buried alive inside a tomb.
Three is also a sacred number in Masonic rites, which had been previously highlighted and used by Mozart in Die Zauberflöte. Mozart turned the number three into a pillar of his annoyingly esoteric Die Zauberflöte, which is overtly suffused with Egyptian symbolism: the overture itself is opened by a three-note chord, and we see the three ladies, the three spirits, and three slaves of Sarastro.
Chailly says directly on Aida, "And here are the three lead characters of the story: Aida, Radames, and Amneris, and this is not a coincidence. This didn't happen by chance. It’s a true Verdi enigma. It's an enigma, just like the world of the Pharoes still presents an enigma to us."
Chailly continues: “So we can assume that Verdi was a freemason. I don't know that as an absolute truth, but it would be very interesting to study more this obscure side of Verdi’s life."
Chailly is onto a popular theory, as many scholars think that Verdi was a member of “The Great Orient Lodge”, which had a prominent presence in Milan during the active years of Verdi's life. In fact, in a handful of Masonic texts during Verdi’s livelihood, Verdi’s name is part of the list of Freemason composers together with other notables such as Gluck, Boito, Liszt, and Puccini.
Chailly goes on to say, "In the last ten years, I often had clashes with directors because they wanted to dominate a show. With Zeffirelli, it's the opposite: we have the ideal relationship. Zeffirelli can sing the entire opera from memory. (!!!) He keeps a very overt presence at the rehearsals. And at eighty-three, it’s a surprise! He works in a very professional and aggressive manner, but sometimes he’s almost mean with the singers." The thrust of Zeffirelli’s direction will underscore the dreamy dimensions of this masterpiece.
Chailly has some very cool advice for those who have been lucky enough to have scored tickets to La Prima of Aida on December 7, 2006. He says to pay close attention to the start of the Third Act. It’s the revelation of a glimpse of genius that shows Verdi was already looking towards the twentieth century.
Chailly concludes: “The first time that I heard Aida, I was a boy. Maestro Abbado was conducting and it had such an impression on me that it felt like I had been struck by lightning. I asked myself, ‘Is this Verdi?’ Maybe Mahler had the same thought. Mahler conducted Aida three times. And certainly his “Das Lied von der Erde” was influenced by Aida.
By the way, Decca has announced that they will be at La Prima to record Chailly’s Aida for a later DVD release.