Aida

Sans Elephants

BsoaidaThe Ides of March performance of Verdi's Aida had a stunningly hideous staging. This production premiered the 19. January 1996, and was acclaimed by critics as "striking."

John Fiore conducted adequately, the orchestra was together with the singers for the most part. There were horns playing onstage at one point, and they did not have issues with synchronization, as in Don Giovanni.

David Pountney's staging was a bit busy, even without elephants and pyramids. So much was going on, especially in the first two acts, the sheer number of bodies was utterly confusing. Especially strange were the people who crawled on the ground, swathed a bit like mummies in white linen, they were like maggots and occasionally they bumped heads by accident.

Robert Israel's set consisted of a few walls set in triangles, each one pulled on and off stage by supernumeraries. They looked like construction sites for hyper-modern German buildings, with metal pipes here and there, a segmented glass wall, and so forth. There were a few large images incorporated in some of these, two of a brown-skinned person's nose and cheeks, one of a woman's very white thighs, another of a woman's white hands at her neck. They would lower various objects as well, including a dried tree, some stage lights, a huge boat-shaped stone, and another stone that looked like a ruin.

The costumes by Dunya Ramicová were simple, sheaths and mantels in white, black, and various blues and greens. Though Amneris did wear dark red during the first two acts, in contrast to Aida in sage green the entire time.

Nils Christe's choreography was overwrought. They used 6 dancers in various scenes in the first half, these dressed in unitards, dancing in modern technique, lots of squat-like plies, contraction, but with some more balletic movements as well. The dancers were solid and silent, if they were to reveal something about the opera, this was largely unsuccessful. Also, the choreography for the singers was not particularly good. Having Amneris spin around with joy after her engagement with Radamès is just silly.

The singing was fairly good. Baritone Giovanni Meoni stood in for Alexandru Agache as Amonasro, and was perfectly fine in the part. Tenor Stephen O'Mara was a fine Radamès, though his voice was not distinctive. In contrast, Irina Mishura, the mezzo-soprano who sang Amneris, had a dark, rich voice. Soprano Norma Fantini was nice enough in the title role, she was especially good in Act III's "O patria mia." Her voice thins out at the top, but her volume and control seemed good.