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Verdi's 'Aida'

The exotic aura of ancient Egypt has been the magic ingredient in all kinds of entertainments — from "high culture" offerings such as Norman Mailer's evocative novel Ancient Evenings and any number of learned documentaries, to giddy pop songs. Remember "Walk Like an Egyptian," by The Bangles?

Egypt has also starred in any number of movies and those also cover a wide spectrum, ranging from several versions of Cleopatra's story, to the adventures of Indiana Jones, to "The Ten Commandments." And then there are all those mummy movies, from the original, 1932 classic starring Boris Karloff, to spinoffs such as "The Mummy's Hand," "The Mummy's Returns," and even "I Was a Teenage Mummy!"

And, the exotic spectacle and colorful stories of Egypt are also tailor-made for opera, especially if you add a dose of pure passion to the mix. Handel wrote three operas set in Egypt, including Julius Caesar. Massenet chipped in with Thais, set in Alexandria. But when it comes to Egypt in the opera house there's one piece that tops them all, and it's one of the most popular and spectacular operas of all time: Verdi's Aida.

In her moving Act Three aria "O patria mia," Aida longs for her Ethiopian homeland, afraid that she'll never see it again.

On this edition of World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone brings us a new production of Verdi's blockbuster from Houston Grand Opera, with a cast including Zvetelina Vassileva in the title role, Marco Berti as her lover Radames and Dolora Zajick as Aida's bitter rival, Amneris.

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