* Notes *
Seattle Opera's Aida closed yesterday at McCaw Hall. The production, directed by Robin Guarino, was suitably grand. Michael Yeargan's set was attractive, the background of the pyramids was especially lovely. The scene changes were, however, not seamless. The curtain was brought down for a few minutes at a time, and the audience lost interest as we waited, lowering the intensity of the performance. Even so, the costumes from Peter J. Hall were striking, in keeping with the style of the set, and displayed a command of palette. For instance, Aida's first costume in teal and rose contrasted well with Amneris' costume of coral and turquoise, yet the effect struck a perfect balance, and did not look tired or ugly in any way. Robert Wierzel's lighting enhanced the production, and made the set seem to glow. The Donald Byrd's choreography was a bit transparent at times. Having servants walk around as if they were Ancient Egyptian paintings simply made me think of The Bangles. Nonetheless, some of the dancing was quite good, especially the solo in Act I Scene 2.
The orchestra was in fine form under debuting conductor Riccardo Frizza. They did have some problems being exactly with the chorus in Act I. The horns and trumpets were very close to being in tune during the Triumphal March, and played better than usual. Vocally, the performance was good but not great. Mezzo-soprano Priti Gandhi sounded tentative as the High Priestess, though her voice does have a pleasing lucidity. Karl Marx Reyes sang the small role of the messenger nicely. Luiz-Ottavio Faria (Ramfis) was a bit thin, and occasionally difficult to hear over the orchestra. He did sing well in the Act I finale. As Amonasro, Charles Taylor was not commanding, and one wonders why he is in the A cast rather than Richard Paul Fink. Taylor's voice is pretty, but was, at times rather gravelly for a baritone, and does not compare favorably to Fink's rich, full tone. I am unsure why former Merolino Joseph Rawley (King of Egypt) made almost no impression on me at all, just as before as Curio in Giulio Cesare a few seasons ago. Though not imposing, he sang well, though not exceptionally. Antonello Palombi was a bit uneven as Radames, he could be quite loud, but if he happened to be upstage he could sound muffled. His voice paired nicely with Aida's, having a reedy and vulnerable quality.
Lisa Daltirus started off shrill and screeching in the title role, and I was worried I would dislike her as much as Norah Amsellem (the tone-deaf soprano in Seattle Opera's Il Puritani earlier this year) or Andrea Gruber (who was to share this role with Daltirus, but mysteriously was replaced). Daltirus was always in tune, but her breathing was very audible and she showed some strain in her voice, especially at the top. Her lower range is pretty and she sang Act I's "Ritorna vincitor!" beautifully. The star of the evening, however, was Stephanie Blythe (Amneris). Blythe has good control and a warm but piercing quality that is impressive. She does have moments where her voice is less than creamy, a certain coarseness, but she did overshadow all the other singers.
* Tattling *
The audience was better than the typical Seattle Opera audience. There was no late seating, and the house looked completely full. Even standing room looked sold out. Someone was speaking during the first overture, but was quickly hushed, and after that only whispering was noted. There were no cellular phone rings, but there was a watch alarm near me at each hour, and at 10pm, I heard no less than 4 different watches sounding at different times.