Wednesday, September 25, 2013

AIDA: The Story – Part Two

Ok, now I shall try to give you even a little taste of the magnificence of Act Two.  Yes, I said yesterday that Act One was awesomeness.  Well, Act Two is definitely magnificence.  And grief.  And full of wonderful, beautiful character moments and songs.

Seriously, did I mention how much I ADORE this musical?  =D

Again, this post is practically oozing spoilers.  :)

AIDA: ACT TWO:  (Again, song titles are in italics.)
Aida, Amneris and Rhadames realize they are each caught in a tangled web.  Amneris - daughter of the Pharaoh, betrothed to Egypt's most lauded captain, worried for her father and her future, in love with a man who pays little attention to her, covering her problems and thoughts with the mask of a fashion-loving, vain, spoiled princess.  "There are times when I imagine, I'm not always on his mind.  He's not thinking what I'm thinking.  Always half a step behind, always half a step behind."  Rhadames - betrothed to Amneris, groomed to take the Pharoah's throne upon his death, but in love with a slave girl, and willing to throw everything away for her.  He no longer has the same ambitions for glory that he had. "I'm in every kind of trouble, can't you tell, just look at me.  Half ecstatic, half dejected, all in all I'm all at sea."  Aida - a slave in love with her captor, the enemy of her people, and the fiance of her mistress.  Needing to be a strong leader for her people but worried for her father who is imprisoned by the Egyptians, wanting to return to Nubia and yet be with Rhadames at the same time.  "I am certain that I love him, but a love can be misplaced.  Have I compromised my people, in my passion and my haste?" – A Step Too Far.

The cunning Mereb is able to bribe his way past a prison guard with Aida to sneak into the prison cell where Amonasro is being held.  There, all three plot how to escape.  Mereb can bribe the guard on duty, and thus break Amonasro out.  Aida displays Rhadames' medal, saying they can use it to help them get past the guards at the docks. Mereb is surprised, "Captain Rhadames gave that to you?!"  He knows what that medal means, and what it must mean if Rhadames gave it to Aida.  Amonasro is livid that his daughter can have forgotten herself so far as to fall in love with the enemy.  "Do not shame yourself and me with such witless sentiment.... You will cut this man from your heart.... I would not have thought it possible that these Egyptians could give me one more reason to hate them."

Aida aches, knowing she must give up Rhadames for her father's escape to work, "All I have to do is to pretend I never knew him, on those very rare occasions when he steals into my heart.... All I ever wanted and I'm throwing it away." – Easy as Life.

Rhadames' scheming father, Zoser, has discovered his son's secret and tries to make him renounce Aida, basically saying,  "You'd give up your entire future, for her?"  But, Rhadames has never wanted the future his father planned out for him, "I don't care about the throne, father. Because I'm not like you. And I never will be.... You can forget about your plans, father. There will be no wedding!" – Like Father, Like Son.   (CONTENT WARNING: this song has some language issues, especially the second half of it.) Seeing that Rhadames will not give up Aida, or the love he's found with her, Zoser orders his soldiers to find Aida and kill her.

Meanwhile, Aida has received a letter from Rhadames, apologizing for earlier, when the news came of Amonasro's capture.  "I'm sorry for everything I've said.  And for anything I forgot to say too.... Oh I wish I could tell you this face to face.... This letter will have to do.  I love you." – Rhadames' Letter.

When Zoser's soldiers arrive at the Nubian camp and demand Aida, the faithful Nehebkha comes forward and declares herself as Aida, while the other Nubian slaves hide Aida and prevent her from stopping Nehebka or revealing herself.   The soldiers drag Nehebkha to her death; she has sacrificed herself for the princess she loves, believes in and trusts – Dance of the Robe, Reprise.  (And my heart is ripped into a dozen pieces.)

Aida determines she cannot just leave Rhadames without a word of explanation and that she must bid him goodbye in person.  Mereb tries to dissuade her, "No! No! You cannot give yourself to him..... You are our Princess, our inspiration, our promise of a new day."  Aida goes anyway, leaving Mereb disillusioned, "I thought I knew you, princess.  But I never understood.  I don't know you." – I Know You, Reprise.

When she meets Rhadames, he is overjoyed she is alive, having thought his father's soldiers had killed her.  "They came for me.  But they took another.  I blame myself."  "No. I put you in danger. But I swear, it will never happen again."  He has decided to call off the wedding so he can be with Aida.  Knowing this will endanger her father's escape, Aida tells him, "No.  I love you, Radames.  But you must marry the princess tomorrow...  I am here to tell you, we can never meet again." – Written in the Stars.  (My favorite song in the entire musical.  Tragic, beautiful, full of power.)  Torn, hurting at her rejection of him, but knowing she is right, Rhadames agrees.  He will marry Amneris, but in return Aida must escape on a boat he will provide and return to Nubia.  He will at least have that measure of happiness, in knowing that while he lives the life planned for him, she will be free.

After they part, Amneris steps out of the shadows, having heard their encounter and stunned at the realization her love and marriage will be one-sided.  Rhadames does not love her.  He is in love with her slave.  "This should have been my time.  It's over, it never began.... I know the truth and it haunts me... I learned it a little too late." – I Know the Truth.  Covering her pain with a wooden mask, she proceeds to the wedding.  Stony faced, Rhadames meets her, they stand before the Pharoah and he marries them.  Soldiers rush in, with the news that the King of Nubia has escaped.  Rhadames orders his soldiers to search the city.  Zoser tells them to go to the docks, that is the most likely route of escape.  Remembering Aida's planned escape, Rhadames countermands the order.  "No!  Seal off the docks!  No one must reach the pier before I arrive there."

At the docks, Amonasro, Aida and Mereb are climbing into the waiting boat, when Rhadames arrives.  Over her father's protests, Aida goes back for one last moment with her beloved.  Rhadames is shocked and horrified to see her with Amonasro, and suddenly the light dawns, "Of course.  You're the Nubian Princess.  You had me marry Amneris so your king could escape.... It was all a lie.  Every word, every kiss."  Aida vehemently refutes that, "No.  But I have made too many mistakes and too many people have suffered.  I could not act selfishly now.... I did not lie when I said I loved you."  Zoser arrives, and is livid upon discovering Aida is still alive.  He starts toward her, intending to kill her himself, but Mereb throws himself between the Minister and his princess.  Rhadames and Amonasro urge Aida to get into the boat, but she refuses to leave without Mereb.  Mereb dispatches one of Zoser's soldiers and then duels Zoser himself, who mortally wounds him.  Aida rushes to cradle the dying Mereb.  Rhadames leaps to the dock edge and over his father's shouts of protest, whips out his sword and cuts the rope binding the boat to the docks, ensuring Amonasro's escape.  White with fury, Zoser demands to know what Rhadames is doing.  "It's all over, Father.  When they come for me, they'll come for you."  Zoser seems to find this hard to believe, "Egypt needs me!"  (At this moment, I always think, "Yeah right, you egotistical idiot.  Egypt will be much better off without you!!")  Rhadames just shakes his head, "I never wanted this... you were the one who tied our fates together, remember?  Like father, like son?"  Zoser runs off.

Rhadames kneels next to Aida as Mereb gasps, "I failed you, Princess."  Aida shakes her head in denial, "No Mereb, you inspired me."  As he dies he simply says, "I wanted to go back to Nubia, take me home, Aida."  (And my heart is torn into a hundred pieces.)  Gently, Rhadames and Aida lay down the faithful servant.  They share one last embrace, as the soldiers enter to put them both in chains.  Amneris approaches, begging Rhadames to deny everything, "If you deny everything, my father might spare your life...."  He refuses to take the easy way out, "Every act of my life has been wrong, except for this."  Amneris is holding back tears, "But, they want to bury you alive!"  He is calmly accepting, "Yes.  It's what we do to traitors."  Heartbroken, she asks him, "Did you ever love me?"  "Amneris, I've always loved you."  The soldiers drag him away.  Amneris turns to Aida, and incensed at the soldiers dragging her, screams at them, "Take your hands off her... After all she is a princess...  No wonder you understood me so well."  She comes nearer to Aida, who apologizes for everything, and pleads with her to spare Rhadames and put all the blame on her.  Amneris, as much as she wants to, knows she cannot.  There is nothing she can do for the man she loves.  Or the woman she has also come to love and look on as a friend.  (And my heart shatters into a thousand pieces.)

In the judgement hall, the Pharaoh pronounces their sentences.  The traitors are to be buried alive.  In a superb, GLORIOUS scene, Amneris demands she be allowed to decide their sentence, "I was wronged. It should be my decision....  For their crimes, the traitors will be buried beneath the sands of Egypt, in one tomb...together.  The Daughter of Isis has spoken."  The best she can do, for the two people she loves, is to let them die together.

As they wait for death, Aida tells Rhadames, "I'm so tired of all we're going through.  I don't want to love like that.  I just want to be with you.  Now and forever peaceful, true." – Elaborate Lives, Reprise.  Once in the tomb, dying, Rhadames promises, "There is another world waiting for us, Aida....  If I have to search for a hundred life times, I will find you again, Aida." – Enchantment Passing Through, Reprise.

Amneris is now alone, the ruler of Egypt, but a better and wiser ruler thanks to what she has learned from Rhadames and Aida, "From deep within the tomb, a gentle light still shone, showing me my path as I ascended to the throne....  The lovers' deaths gave birth to a reign of peace....  And the lesson they provide.  Draw their strength and inspiration, from a love that never dies." – Every Story is a Love Story, Reprise.  We return to the scene in the modern museum exhibit, and Amneris returns to her display case, watching over the man and woman drawn to each other in front of the empty tomb.  They are the reincarnations of Aida and Rhadames.  They have found each other again.  (Is this theologically sound– no.  Is it kind of cool anyway?  I think so.)

And, having slashed my heart into a million pieces, and then stomped on the pieces... as the musical ends I look around me, and realize the rest of the world is carrying on as normal.  I must return to the real world, and withdraw from the fascinating world of....


Miss Melody Muffin

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