So, you thought I was done with Aida and her tragic fate? Well, I did too. Readers of my opera series know that I (just like the Great Voltaire!) like to tack on happy endings to tragic stories. Why? Because that way I don’t have to bring a box of tissues with me to the theater every time. For example, I was able to invent a perfect happy ending for Othello, in which Desdemona does not get strangled. But when it came to Aida, I just didn’t think it was possible… until! A dream came to me in the middle of last night. A dream so vivid, it could only have been a mystical vision from the God Sutekh himself!
And the dream told me exactly which words I had to write down, which is what I am doing now. This is what Hollywood people call a “treatment”. It’s not the libretto, it’s just a summary of the plot. But all I need to bring this brilliant idea to fruition is an Italian librettist, a genial musical composer, oh, and I also need another tenor, because there is a new, non-canonical role. Actually, we could just give this role to Arseny Yakovlev. Senya is an up-and-coming young Russian tenor who has acquitted himself well in the small part of the Messenger, but now deserves a meatier role. He will continue to sing the Messenger in Act I, but will return (in a different costume) as General Tut for the new material, which I have composed. So here, goes….
So, where we left off in the canonical material, it was the end of Act IV. Radames has been buried alive in the tomb beneath the altar of the High Priests. The Priests do their shtick, while Princess Amneris intones a prayer for peace (“Pace! Pace!”) And the curtain falls, and everybody has to grab their box of tissues… But wait!
The curtain doesn’t fall. There will be a little extra material tacked on to the end of Act IV, and then there will be another intermission, followed by a new Act V!
Act IV (continued…)
We already learned (in the canonical material) that Amneris despises the Egyptian priesthood. She called them a bunch of blood-thirsty hypocrites! And that was very typical of the ancient world, namely the political feuds between Court and Temple. Each side (in Marxist terminology) representing a different segment of the ruling class. Ever since she was a little girl, Amneris has been studying the priesthood (plotting how to clip their wings) and spying on them. She blames them for the death of her mother, a woman from the minor nobility of a foreign country, who died in childbirth. Because, see, the priests wouldn’t allow the poor woman to get real medical help when she was in distress; and just kept intoning their own voodoo, which didn’t work.
[As she explicates in asides], Amneris knows all the secret passageways underneath the temple of Memphis; not to mention the concealed button by which she could spring open the tomb. Even now, in her despair, Amneris is hatching one last plan to save her beloved Radames, with whom she has been obsessively in love since the age of 12. (Which was about four years ago.) She casually asks the priests, “How much time does he have?” They reckon that he has roughly two hours of oxygen left, perhaps more if he would cut down on that infernal singing (which they can hear through the rock). Amneris checks her portable sundial, and decides to wait it out. Eventually the priests call it a night and leave.
Amneris springs into action. She believes that a stint in the tomb will have taught Radames a much-needed lesson. He will be so grateful to her when she saves him, that he will finally start to love her…
She is about to push the secret button that releases the latch when… All of a sudden! She hears him singing, but she also hears another, higher, voice blending in. It’s a duet! It can’t be! No! NOT THAT EFFING BITCH! Aaaaah, she runs away in tears.
Curtain closes. Intermission while the stagehands put together the scenery for
Act V (the Pharaoh’s Chamber)
As the curtain opens, Pharaoh Speedo launches his big aria with much backstory explicated. It turns out that Egypt is in terrible shape, financially. This endless war with the Ethiopians has drained their budget. And the army is not as big and powerful as people are led to believe; the loss of General Radames has revealed a less than deep bench among the senior officers… He had to quickly promote some raw junior officers to fill the gap…
Enter General Tut. “You summoned me, Sire?”
Speedo: “Ah, General Tut, thank you for coming! I wanted to apologize and explain to you in person why you didn’t get a big Triumphal March like Radames did, to celebrate your recent victory over the Ethiopians…”
Tut: “It’s okay, Sire. I understand that I am still young and inexperienced, prior to this I was just a prize-winner in the Bolshoi Young Officers program, this was my first taste of real combat…”
Speedo: “And you acquitted yourself well, my son. You were able to defeat King Amonasro, kill him and all his sons — and that despite the fact that the traitor Radames let slip the exact route your army was following.”
Tut (smugly): “Sometimes you don’t even need the element of surprise. Especially when you outnumber the rag-tags by 10 to 1.”
Speedo: “Good point. But on that note, and just between you and me, our army is in terrible shape right now. We could barely scrape up the cash to stage that Triumphal March for General Radames. In fact, we had to cheat a bit and have the archers and cavalry circle back around a few times during the parade… I would love to do more to keep up the morale of the troops, but even our wealthy tax-paying landowner Amon-Neubauer has limits to his pocketbook… Anyhow, I am counting on you to implement certain cutbacks. Do you think the soldiers will mutiny if we tell them they only get two meals a day, instead of three?”
[Tut is about to respond, when a visibly upset Princess Amneris bursts into the chamber, sobbing: “Oh Daddy! Daddy!” She comes up short when she spots the stranger, General Tut. Their eyes meet. Tut falls instantly in love with the beautiful princess. Amneris is still in love with Radames, but she do like what she sees in the youthful stranger.]
Speedo: “Princess, please give us a moment…” [Amneris curtseys and exits.] “That’s my daughter, General Tut.” [notices that Tut has his mouth hanging open] “You like her?” [to himself:] “He can have her!”
Tut: “Your daughter is amazing, Sire. She doesn’t look anything like you.” [suddenly realizes his faux pas…] “Sire! I didn’t mean…!”
Speedo: “It’s okay, that wasn’t racist. Her mother was a Philistine. I met her during the Phoenician campaign. She was illiterate and uncultured but had beautiful soft white skin. I loved her dearly, even though her blood was not as pure as mine. Anyhow, you can marry my daughter if you want to.”
Tut: “Yes, please!”
Speedo: “Good. Now go. I have to see what the little bra… I mean, my darling daughter, wants.”
[General Tut exuents, bowing and scraping. Princess Amneris dashes back into the chamber.]
Amneris: “Daddy, it’s so unfair! That Ethiopian bitch Aida slipped into the tomb when nobody was looking. She’s down there, dying with Radames. And they’re singing a love duet!”
Speedo: “WHAT???!!!! Aida is still alive? That’s perfect!”
Amneris [coldly]: “How so? I wish she was dead, after the way she treated me. I was always so nice to her, and all the time she was sneaking around with my boyfriend behind my back.”
Speedo: “For the last time, Pumpkin, Radames wasn’t your boyfriend! We’ve been over this a hundred… oh, never mind. My child, you have so much to learn about geopolitics. With her father and brothers dead, Aida is now the heiress to the Ethiopian throne. I will marry her to General Radames, promote him back to his old job, he will rebuild our army, and their union will cement a lasting peace between our two nations.”
Amneris [contemptuously, and checking her wrist-dial]: “Well, you’d better hurry, then, because, according to my calculations, they only have about 10 molecules of oxygen left between the two of them…”
[Everybody rushes off. In the Grand Finale, Radames and Aida are rescued just in the nick of time, they are starting to look a little blue…. Then everybody, including all the supernumeraries, pile onto the stage for the dual wedding scene: (Radames + Aida); and (Amneris + General Tut). The chorus sings an uplifting and magnificent paean that is a wish for Everlasting Peace Among All Nations!]