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A Western Fantasy Placed in the East essay千字论文案例

文章类型:essay 发布时间:2020-01-14

A Western Fantasy Placed in the East 
— on Edward Said’s Orientalism Critique of Aida

In Said’s (1993) ‘the Empire at Work: Aida’, he analyzed the process of the creation of Aida by Verdi, together with the effort of Mariette and others, and how this opera exemplifies Orientalism at work. In a nutshell, Said placed Aida in the historical background of the era of colonialism and imperialism by Europe. Though Verdi tried hard to revive the Old Kingdom on stage, he still failed to exclude the influence of historical context. Drawing on other critiques, this paper asserts that Said’s argument for Orientalist elements in Aida is a rather precise reflection upon the creation of the opera and its content. The reason for this thesis is twofold: 1) the opera itself contains elements that symbolize Western idealization and imagination of the East; 2) this is due to the limitation of the historical context, resulting in the inevitable Orientalist interpretation of the East. The first section of the paper follows the arguments of Said’s and the analysis of the opera, therefore focusing on the creation and its historical context. The second section will be focused on the elements of the opera itself is a Western Idealization of the East. Later sections of the paper will deal with a few counterarguments. This paper will end with some concluding remarks and implications for future direction.

在赛义德(1993)的《工作中的帝国:艾达》中,他分析了威尔第(Verdi)创作艾达的过程,以及马里埃特(Mariette)等人的努力,以及该歌剧如何体现工作中的东方主义。简而言之,赛义德将艾达置于欧洲殖民主义和帝国主义时代的历史背景中。尽管威尔第在舞台上努力复兴旧王国,但他仍然未能排除历史背景的影响。借鉴其他批评,本文认为赛义德对《阿伊达》中东方元素的论点是对歌剧创作及其内容的相当精确的反映。本文的原因有两个方面:1)歌剧本身包含了象征西方理想化和东方想象力的元素; 2。 2)这是由于历史背景的局限性,导致东方对东方的必然解释。本文的第一部分遵循赛义德的论点和对歌剧的分析,因此着眼于创作及其历史背景。第二部分将重点关注歌剧本身是东方的西方理想化的要素。本文后面的部分将涉及一些反驳。本文将以一些总结性结论和对未来方向的启示。

Orientalism and the Background of Aida
In the aforementioned work of Said (1993) on Aida and Orientalism, he defined Orientalism as a tendency of the Western society to view the East as exotic, distant, antique, and more importantly, inferior to the West. This view largely justified the colonization of the East by deeming the East as ‘the Other’.  This definition will be helpful for us along the way to understand the Orientalist elements in Aida and the creation of it, as will be discussed in the following paragraphs. Before presenting the main arguments, it is also necessary to revisit the historical background of Aida. Aida was created by Verdi and premiered in 1871. It was also the era of the Western conquering of the Eastern world, including Egypt. Aida was, as a fact of fact, commissioned by Khedivial Opera House in Cairo and was first put on a show there. Verdi was also assisted by Auguste Mariette, a French archeologist and Egyptologist (Said, 1993). And it was here that the story began. 

在萨伊德(Said,1993)关于艾达和东方主义的上述著作中,他将东方主义定义为西方社会倾向于将东方视为异国情调,遥远,古老,更重要的是次于西方的一种趋势。这种观点通过将东方视为“他者”,在很大程度上证明了东方的殖民统治。这个定义将有助于我们理解Aida中的东方主义元素及其创建,这将在以下段落中进行讨论。在提出主要论点之前,也有必要重新审视阿伊达的历史背景。阿依达(Aida)由威尔第(Verdi)创建并于1871年首映。这也是西方征服包括埃及在内的东方世界的时代。事实上,阿伊达(Aida)是由开罗(Kedivial)歌德比亚歌剧院(Khedivial Opera House)委托创作的,并首次在该剧院放映。威尔第还得到了法国考古学家和埃及学家奥古斯特·玛丽埃特(Auguste Mariette)的协助(Said,1993年)。故事就从这里开始。

Perception of the East: the Shaping Forces of History
Following the thread of the historical background, it is appropriate to discuss how Verdi was influenced by the history of conquering and expedition of Egypt, reflected in the creation process of Aida.
The revival of Ancient Egypt on stage is no more than an imperial reconstruction of Egypt, as argued by Said (1993). Aida therefore demonstrated Egyptology rather than Egypt, which are essentially two different concepts (Said, 1993). The former is a reconstruction of Ancient Egypt based on Western Perception, while the latter is an entity, an object for observation and exploration in the eyes of Westerners. Furthermore, the power asymmetry between the West and the East gave the West the dominance in the interpretation of Eastern culture in their works of art. And Aida was only one example. It is safe to say that most artists at this point were largely influenced by a Western interpretation of Egyptian culture, rather than how it is told and described in the eyes of its people. This historical context set the stage for further interpretation and manifestation of the East by Westerners, including Verdi. Thus, his creation of Aida was arguably restricted by his imagination of the East and the information he had access to about Egypt.


Imagination at Work: the Western Idealization in Aida
Now that the inevitability of Orientalist influence on the creation of Aida was discussed, bearing the conclusions of this discussion in mind will also help us understand how this influence manifested itself in the Opera. The music and design of the scene (especially in Act III) in collaboration with Mariette was one aspect that showed Orientalist elements. Said (1993, p.22) described how the music and the scene were created in a fashion that was both imaginative and cliche of the East.
Story-wise, Aida is more of a reflection of a Western idea and beliefs. The theme of individual pursuit of love, standing up against external forces (national interests, in this case), is almost Shakespearian. This not only to some degrees reflects a lack of understanding of the Eastern values concerning family and love, but also romanticized politics and power structures in the East. In a sense, one can argue that the East in Western art became a shelter for romanticist fantasies. The story ended with the ascent of the two with the angel of death. The eternal love between them was thus preserved and blessed. This arguably conveys a more Western religious idea about love, death and eternity. Granted, Verdi was not to blame for the inaccuracy in terms of cultural understanding, but his work reflects the degree of the Orientalist influence precisely because of the lack of this understanding. Since one’s imagination of the unknown is restricted by what he or she already perceives of the world one lives in. In conclusion, one can argue that Aida represented a romanticized idealization of Egypt, where the effort put into reviving the Old Kingdom was tainted by the restriction of the historical and cultural contexts, eventually falling victim to a Western gaze of the East.


The Case Against Orientalism?
After discussing why Aida is an example of Orientalism, it helps to strengthen these arguments to examine a few counterarguments put forward by Bergeron (2002).
She argued that though Verdi’s knowledge about modern Egypt was enough to make Radames a convincing leading character. Moreover, she suggested that in the eye of Radames, Aida was way more than a colonial subject, thus the power relations between them presumably reflecting Orientalism is non-existent. She alway put forward the opinion that the issue concerning Aida was not that it represents a new order of Egypt, but it represents Verdi’s realism.
These arguments are problematic in multiple ways. Firstly, whether Verdi himself knew enough about Egypt was not the core of the problem with Orientalism, but rather how the image of Egypt was represented, portrayed, and reproduced through Egyptology and the opera itself. As argued above, since the creation itself made use of information about Egyptian culture based on a Western gaze on the East, the image of Egypt was more or less distorted. Examples include the cliches in music as argued by Said.
Though Bergeron further argued for ‘realism’ which was insisted by Verdi, she failed to realize, as Said pointed out, that Egypt in Aida was not Egypt but a reflection Egyptology at that time. The efforts of Verdi’s to advance his agenda of realism was more or less compromised by the noise carried in Egyptology, which was essentially built upon a Wester gaze on Egypt. Not to mention the modernization of Egypt did not necessarily help in preserving the country’s cultural legacy. Therefore, it is rather evident that Verdi could not have escaped from Orientalist elements despite how hard he tried to do so.
If investigated closely, the real issue revolving around Aida was more about how it was produced rather than what was demonstrated in the relationships between the characters.


Aida is an excellent work of art in multiple ways, but it should also be placed in its historical background if one tries to analyze the ideas intentionally or unintentionally conveyed by the opera. This paper discussed how Aida was shaped by a historical context that gave birth to Orientalism, and thus projected Orientalist imagination of the East onto the characters as well as the story. Although there are. Hopefully, this analysis is able to raise awareness for more reflexivity in studying works of art focusing on portraying ‘the East’.
Bergeron, K. (2002). Verdi's Egyptian spectacle: On the colonial subject of Aida. Cambridge Opera Journal, 14(1-2), 149-159.
Said, E. W. (1993). The empire at work: Verdi’s Aida. Culture and Imperialism, 111-31.

阿依达(Aida)是多种艺术作品,但如果人们试图分析歌剧有意或无意传达的观念,也应将其置于其历史背景中。 本文讨论了艾达(Aida)是如何由产生东方主义的历史背景塑造的,从而将东方对东方的想象投射到了人物和故事上。 虽然有。 希望这种分析能够提高人们在研究以东方为题材的艺术品研究中对反身性的认识。
Bergeron,K。(2002)。 威尔第的埃及奇观:关于艾达的殖民主题。 剑桥歌剧杂志,14(1-2),149-159。
萨伊德·E·W(1993)。 工作帝国:威尔第的艾达(Aida)。 文化与帝国主义,111-31。

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