MODERN SCIENCE SAVES OPERA Love deaths are so 19th century

When Radames arrives, the Pharaoh gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage and heirdom to his throne. Now a large dose of plot thickener: Amneris comes to the banks of the Nile to prepare for her wedding. Aida follows secretly to get a last glimpse of her beloved. Her father sees her and persuades her to get from Radames the movements of his army. She does, then Amonasro steps out of the shadows to persuade the hero to join his army which, after all, consists entirely of freedom fighters who want to rule themselves. He also promises him Aida’s hand in marriage. Dazzled, Radames agrees. Alas, Amneris has been listening and denounces Radames as a traitor. The high priests condemn him to be buried alive. Amneris promises to get him pardoned if he will renounce Aida. No dice, he says, so it’s off to the tomb under the temple. Secretly, Aida has hidden herself there so they could die together. Duet: “The fatal stone closes over me. To die, so pure and lovely.” 

Think of the possibilities if a modern writer, staying true to Puccini’s music, were to update the story to reflect what we know today about tuberculosis. Mimi once again would be in Rodolfo’s arms. They have just heard from the doctor. Her tuberculosis is now curable. With proper medical management, prescriptions, and plenty of warm sunshine, Mimi will live a long and happy life. Their present poverty won’t stand in the way. They can sign up for France’s cost-free national health insurance. And, although he doesn’t yet know it, Rodolfo’s poetry will make him famous and prosperous. As the good health news rolls in, they sing a radiant duet. Rodolfo sings Puccini’s version of, “I’m gonna build a little home for two or three or more, in Love Land, for me and my gal.” Mimi beams at him, her illness is gone. They gaze at a bright, warm sunset as he sings, “Mimi! Mimi!” and smothers her with kisses.

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