He’s a soldier, captain of the Egyptian guard, and his first loyalty is to his king. All that falls away in Aida when a beautiful Ethiopian slave walks through the door and Radamès falls in love. “He betrays his people by revealing very, very important military secrets. But even in that mistake he refuses to betray Aida and remains silent and is condemned to death. Even in this terrible turn of events, he always remains loyal, first to the king and then to Aida,” says Italian spinto tenor Riccardo Massi, who sings the role of Radamès in Houston Grand Opera’s season-opening production of the Giuseppe Verdi classic. “Verdi loves this kind of situation, where everything works fine to a certain point and then something happens and there’s disaster,” Massi says. “It’s exactly the turn of events that gives you that thrill. That beautiful feeling of what’s-going-to-happen-now. Plus there’s that beautiful, beautiful music that Verdi wrote.”

Massi, a former stuntman (the HBO series Rome, Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York) and martial arts instructor, began his opera training at the advanced age of 22, went on to win a singing competition at La Scala, and has had a hard-charging career since then. He has sung the role before at the Met in New York City. As a spinto tenor, Massi hits the usual high notes but is also able to add layers and depth to the lower tones the role demands. Massi says everyone should see Aida at least once, and not just because he is Italian. “It’s a Verdi masterpiece. It’s one of those things that you cannot miss in your life. This is not just an opera. This is a heritage that Verdi left to mankind. The music that Verdi wrote is so universal. Even if you don’t understand the words, the music is so, so clear. It’s something that goes beyond words.”

7 p.m. October 18 and 7:30 p.m. October 25 and November 2 and 8; 2 p.m. October 27 and November 10. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit $18 to $386.50.
Fri., Oct. 18, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 20, 2 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 3, 2 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., 2013

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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