Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Micaela Carosi as Aida [Photo courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
21 Sep 2010

Aida in San Francisco

Opera as circus. The current San Francisco Aida comes from the English National Opera where an inspired and probably very excited administrator proposed a production by aging London fashionista Zandra Rhodes.

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Aida: Micaela Carosi; Amneris: Dolora Zajick; Radames: Marcello Giordani; Amonasro: Marco Vratogna; Ramfis: Hao Jiang Tian; The King of Egypt: Christian Van Horn; Priestess: Leah Crocetto; Messenger: David Lomelí. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti. Director: Jo Davies. Production Designer: Zandra Rhodes. Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich. Original Choreographer: Jonathan Lunn. Revival Choreographer: Lawrence Pech.

Above: Micaela Carosi as Aida
br/>All photos courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

The program booklet credits include her various hair colors (“bright green later changed to a spectacular pink, sometimes radiant red”). Mme. Zandra, approximately 70 years of age according to the program booklet, was aided by British stage director Jo Davis whose credits include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End.

Gio2.gifMarcello Giordani as Radames

These ladies are nothing if not clever. They dealt with Verdi’s problematic three-ringer in a very business like fashion (among Mme. Rhodes listed credits is her successful retail outlet in fashionable Fulham Road). More often than not Verdi’s delicate masterpiece is crushed by its own weight (six big singers working out a sordid political mess caused by some runaway passions and a great big military victory, the situation finally resolved by sheer fatigue — that of the lovers themselves and invariably of the audience too).

The fatigue factor was very nearly solved by mesdames Rhodes and Davis who kept things moving right along by a pyramid shape that expanded and contracted according to moods and situations (the shutters closed completely, finally, on the dying lovers). Sometimes one of the triangle of lovers was left alone on the apron against blank, dark scenery to tell us a few things in private, and once the stage was opened up totally in blank white in stark contrast to the bright greens, spectacular pinks and radiant reds of an unusually flamboyant, 1960’s sensibility Egypt.

All this slick theatricality was unfettered by concept save the presence of the wrathful eye of Horus that oversaw much of the action and cleverly doubled as decoration too. The lower portion of Horus’ priests were covered by wide gold lamé skirts leaving the priests naked from the waist up (and that was a sight to see), coiffed by the appropriate falcon headdress. The Ethiopians and particularly Aida’s father Amonasro were spectacularly savage à la American indian or maybe Australian aboriginal, comically light years away from tall, proud, black Ethiopians who might have seemed actually threatening.

GioCar.gifMarcello Giordani as Radames and Micaela Carosi as Aida

All this was overseen by San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary music director, Nicola Luisotti who probably saw nothing of the above having maneuvered his singers out onto the stage apron where alone, in pairs, trios, etc., he vindicated the idea of the traditional Italian “numbers” opera and reinvented the idea of the “costume” opera (characters are identified by their costumes rather than by what they do). This positioning was ideal for Mo. Luisotti to commune with Verdi and with great big voices, and to create as much effect as possible. Suffice to say that the effect was in fact very nearly maximum, held back only by the fuzzy acoustic of the War Memorial Opera House.

So it was a great evening that teased critical sensibility, seamlessly morphing in and out of tongue-in-cheek caricature of spectacle opera to just plain big, thrilling opera like opera once was, or so we are told.

Zajick2.gifDolora Zajick as Amneris

Diva Dolora Zajick spat and soared in fine voice as Amneris, upholding her by now very long held reputation as the Amneris of our day. She was in ideal concert with the big musical and vocal ideas of the maestro and perfectly at home in the costume opera concept (a big blue dress with a huge sphinx like headdress). Mme. Zajick in fact and against all odds almost succeeded in making Amneris a living, feeling character, this achievement the magic of a true artist.

Likewise tenor Marcello Giordani and soprano Micaela Carosi, the ill-fated lovers, held their own with the maestro, Mr. Giordani bravely donning a truly ridiculous, unflattering warrior skirt while traversing the tenorial tessitura with ease and stylistic aplomb. Mme. Carosi soared to some beautiful pianissimos in the upper-most soprano registers, often the undoing of lesser singers, and otherwise exploited all Italianate mannerisms with conviction. Neither Mme. Carosi nor Mr. Giordani approached the vulnerability or sympathy of their characters, leaving the stage to Mme. Zajick.

Vratogna.gifMarco Vratogna as Amonasro

Baritone Marco Vratogna was puzzling as Amonasro. In his peculiar way-over-the-top costume he was inherently silly, and he delivered his role in a complementary fashion. He proved himself an excellent artist last season as Iago, thus the question remains whether he was directed into this strange histrionic performance or if he came up with it himself. The King of Egypt and the priest Ramfis were well sung respectively by Christian Van Horn and Hao Jiang Tian and were less controversial.

No account of an Aida production can avoid the triumphal scene. It moved quickly thanks to Mo. Luisotti and the mesdames Rhodes and Davis. They went for pure circus, complete with acrobats, a family dancing act and even the de rigueur elephant, here a whimsical, gossamer blue concoction that crowned the wit and fun of these clever ladies. The usual hundreds of supernumeraries had been reduced to a mere thirty-three, and there were no cuts. The scene flew by.

Michael Milenski

Click here for a photo gallery and video excerpts.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):