Tuesday, April 5, 2011


by James Karas

Those who saw the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Aida last October may still be shaking their heads at the shabby show that director Tim Albery put on for them. Albery preferred threadbare conference rooms over grandiose palaces, drab suits for the civilians and run of the mill uniforms for the officers. It was all a pretty depressing affair.

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, offers something immeasurably better without resorting to a parade of animals and without emptying the British Museum of its Egyptian statues. The production directed by David McVicar relies on old-fashioned vocal and orchestral power to turn out an outstanding Aida.

The vocal charge is led by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska as the Ethiopian princess with whom the Captain of the Egyptian Guard, Radames is in love. (The production has two casts and I will only refer to the cast that I saw on March 30, 2011). Monastyrska has a big dramatic voice that can be tender when need be and powerful enough to stop an army when necessary. This is old-fashioned singing with all barrels firing and a delight to see and hear.

Uruguayan tenor Carlo Ventre sang the role of Radames with force and finesse but I must admit that I have some reservations about the quality of his low notes. Aside from that he soared to his high notes and was a superb match for Monastyrska.

Mezzo soprano Marianne Cornetti was a last-minute replacement for the ailing Olga Borodina and she did a commendable job as the jealous and vindictive Princess Amneris. In the final scene, she rises above her jealousy and vindictiveness in a moving display of humanity.

German baritone Michael Volle was a strong Amonasro and British bass Brindley Sherratt was sonorous King of Egypt.

The vocal prowess was not matched by the usual accoutrements of Aida such as massive scenery, huge statues and sets from The Ten Commandments. McVicar, set designer Jean-Marc Puissant and Costume Designer Moritz Junge have opted for a minimal of sets and fairly unobtrusive costumes. A rotating dark wall is the focal point of the set and aside from some indicators of a temple and the dungeon in the final scene, sets are minimal.

McVicar prefers dark shades and the entire production is done in dark tones.

The Triumphal March is reduced to a dance with swords - a warrior dance but no parade of a couple hundred of extras accompanied by zoo animals. I missed the grandiosity of the march but with the vocal power of the present production I could do without it.

Special mention needs to be made of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under the baton of Daniele Rustioni and the Royal Opera Chorus under Renato Balsadonna. Both gave outstanding performances and brought out the full power and all the tenderness of this grand opera.
Aida by Giuseppe Verdi opened on March 22 and will be performed eleven times on various dates until April 15, 2011 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. www.roh.org.uk

1 comment:

  1. I was fortunately enough to go to Sunday's performance. A stupendous evening, but special mention must be made of the thrilling Aida, Latonia Moore, and the young up-and-coming Italian coductor, Daniele Rustioni.