Aida, Metropolitan Opera live relay, October 2009


This is not my favourite Verdi opera, but the production by Sonja Frisell was magnificent, with huge sets designed by Gianni Quaranta, glorious costumes by Dada Saligeri, and lighting by Gil Wechsler — a heavy weight production well matched by the singers, who were superb. Johan Botha was a powerful and lyrical Radames, with Violeta Urmana a strong Aida, and Carlo Guelfi singing and acting with passion as her father Amonasro. Ramfis the high priest was strongly portrayed by Roberto Scandiuzzi with excellent stage presence, and the king was Štefan Kocán. His daughter Amneris, full of dangerous jealousy and scheming, was very well sung by Dolora Zajick, and her lament against the cold condemnation of Radames by the priests soared brilliantly above the orchestra — one could not hear better.

The processions in Act II were marvellous, including horses and a bier of dead bodies, to say nothing of what appeared to be a greater quantity of participants than were really available. And the dances were very well choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, director of the Bolshoi, who took up a position as artist in residence with American Ballet Theatre in January. Visually this was a stunning production, and musically it worked superbly under the direction of Daniele Gatti.

These cinema screenings by the Met are a delight to watch, and Renee Fleming, who introduced it all and conducted the interviews, put out an appeal for donations. I think one should support ones local opera company, but certainly Ms. Fleming is an engaging mistress of ceremonies, and her interview of Dolora Zajick should be recorded for the lessons it might yield to future interviewees. The cinema erupted in laughter more than once, though I don’t think Ms. Zajick had intended a comedy act.

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