* Notes *
I considered skipping the Saturday evening performance of Aida (Act II ovation pictured), as my flight out of New York left in the morning, but Sonja Frisell's production is being retired, so I'd never have another chance to see it in person. I have attended a performance of this Aida production back in 2009, but I was at a score desk and did not see it. It is nothing sort of spectacular, even without elephants.
Designed by Gianni Quaranta, the set is very grand, with enormous palace halls and watery vistas on the banks of the Nile. There are lots of ballet dancers and horses. Dada Saligeri's costumes look very much in keeping with an Ancient Egyptian setting. It was easy to be caught up in all the drama of such an elaborate staging.
The orchestra sounded just as grand under the baton of Maestro Paolo Carignani. There were some gorgeous oboe and flute playing. I was also impressed by the brass, there was only the slightest hint of fuzziness in the trumpets one time for the whole Triumphal March. I felt a bit bad that the audience kept clapping for the horses as it disrupted the beautifully played music. The chorus also sounded fabulous, very together and potent.
This was perhaps the least inspired cast of the three operas I heard in less than 48 hours. Bass Krzysztof Bączyk (the King) sounded thin and quiet, though bass-baritone Christian Van Horn was robust as Ramfis, all the more impressive given that this was his second show of the day. Baritone George Gagnidze was a gritty Amonasro.
Tenor Jorge de León (Radamès) has a lot of power and conveys longing well, but there is not much nuance, he basically sounds the same no matter what words he's singing. Mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova is an ethereal Amneris, she did very well with Act II, Scene 1. Hearing her voice in the last part of the opera was haunting, I really liked how the stage lowered with her on it, as the two lovers are buried alive below. Soprano Angela Meade was the star of the evening, and as Aida that seems perfectly appropriate. Her voice has rich, earthy tones, and there is something about her vibrato that is interestingly textural rather than painful. Her duet with de León at the end of the opera, ""Invan! Tutto e finito ... O terra addio" was incredible.
* Tattling *
This time I was back in Family Circle, but in an aisle seat with a partially obstructed view. It only meant that there was a railing in part of the stage for me, but this easy enough to ignore. There was no one directly in front of me, and the lady to my right was adamant about finding a better seat at intermission. She insisted that the man she was with come sit with her in better seats after the second intermission as well, and it was so clear to me that i simply stayed standing so he could get by more easily.
There were a few lozenges unwrapped during the music, but less coughing. No watch alarms were noted, or cell phone rings. Someone in Balcony Box 11 took a video of the Triumphal March with his phone.