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 Performances

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida and Marcello Giordani as Radames [Photo: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago]
17 Feb 2012

Verdi’s Aida at Lyric Opera, Chicago

In its current revival of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida Lyric Opera of Chicago approaches the challenges of the ambitious score with a cast well suited to the music and to the drama.

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Cick here for cast and other information

Above: Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida and Marcello Giordani as Radames

Photos: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Under the direction of conductor Renato Palumbo the Ethiopian slave Aida is sung by Sondra Radvanovsky, Amneris by Jill Grove, Radames by Marcello Giordani, Ramfis by Raymond Aceto, Amonasro by Gordon Hawkins, and the King by Evan Boyer. At the start of the overture Palumbo emphasized soft, legato playing among the strings with the cellos standing out in gradual contrast. In the middle segment of the overture familiar melodies associated later with specific characters and scenes were etched out with clarity and crisp playing. A return to piano delicacy rounded out the overture fittingly under Palumbo’s direction.

In Act One soon after the announcement by the priest Ramfis that direction will be given to the Egyptian army the first scene of divided loyalties features the officer Radames. Torn between his military ambitions and his love for the slave Aida, Radames gives vent to his emotions in the celebrated aria, “Celeste Aida.” Mr. Giordani sings here with an open, clarion approach, the top notes taken forte and with full confidence. In contrast, his final thoughts of the beloved are sung with an effective diminuendo. Mr. Giordani’s conception of the role and the complexities of character deepen as he proceeds into the following acts, so that softer modulations evident later appropriately enhance the initial impression given here. At the subsequent appearance of Amneris, daughter of the Egyptian king, Ms. Grove struck a challenging figure by infusing an Italianate sense of line with extremely effective low pitches. Her duet with Radames was occasionally overshadowed by the orchestra, yet Ms. Grove’s thrilling and secure top notes left her emotional ambitions for Radames clearly dominant.

At the entrance of Aida the musical scene develops into a trio in which Ms. Radvanovsky’s skillful piano singing suggested gradually oppositional relationships. Such a conflict is intensified in the following two scenes, first in the presence of the King and second in the temple of Vulcan. When the King, sung with well-controlled declamation by Mr. Boyer, announces Radames as the chosen leader to thwart the Ethiopian invasion, the soloists and chorus declare their enthusiasm. In response to the choral cries of “Ritorna vincitor!,” Aida sings her celebrated aria of the same line with intersecting thoughts on homeland and love. Here Radvanovsky’s middle range was especially well deployed with touching diminuendo and a beautifully produced final note on “soffrir.” In the final scene of this act located in the temple politics and religion focus again on the forthcoming battles and prayers for the victory of Radames and his troops. The choral exposition was here appropriately emphatic. As Ramfis the high priest invested Radames with the ceremonial sword, both Aceto and Giordani expressed their devotion with a noteworthy sense of legato.

Aida_Chicago_09.gifSondra Radvanovsky as Aida and Jill Grove as Amneris

In the first scene of Act Two Amneris discovers indeed the secret of Aida’s love for Radames. In their duet Grove and Radvanovsky were dramatically convincing in their exciting duet “Fu la sorte.” Grove’s powerful notes on “Trema!” after confirming the truth expressed her determination to exact revenge. In response, Radvanovsky’s touching pleas on “Numi, pieta” drifted into the air but remained unheeded. As the outcome of the battles dominates the start of the next scene, Ethiopian prisoners are brought in after a parade led by the victorious Radames. A ballet conducted in honor of the King was especially well performed. The vocal ensemble with, on one side, Aida and her father Amonasro as an Ethiopian prisoner, on the other, Amneris, the King, and Radames was well staged and seamlessly conducted. The act ended with Grove’s triumphant declarations in response to the King giving her hand in marriage to Radames.

The single scene of Act Three of Aida on the banks of the Nile has often been emphasized for its dramatic and vocal significance. In this production the realistic atmosphere in the scene was introduced by a boat seeming to glide along the river. After Ramfis utters a prayer for Amneris and her marriage in the temple, Aida sings her romanza, “O patria mia,” surely a highlight of these performances. Radvanovsky assumes a bel canto line in her approach to the aria with exquisite high notes taken on “mai piu” and at its conclusion. In the following duet with her father Amonasro (“Ciel, mio padre”) both Radvanovsky and Hawkins show strong emotional commitment communicated through vocal line and use of rubato. During her impassioned exchange with Radames, Aida finally convinces her lover to flee (“Fuggiam”). The floating piano notes at the end of the duet belie the violent ending of the act when Radames is taken prisoner after the accusation of Amneris.

Aida_Chicago_24.gifScene from Aida

The final act of Aida places Radames in both scenes with the two women vying for his affections strategically divided. At first Amneris attempts to regain control by convincing Radames that she agrees to his defense before the judges. Grove’s transition from hushed notes to a dramatic top gives the impression of unhinged emotions. This heightened tension is enhanced during her duet with Radames. Once he refuses the intervention of Amneris, he also abandons himself to the tribunal. In response to his sentence of death Grove hurls a final dramatic curse at the judges with blood-chilling fury. In the final scene of Act Four Aida joins her beloved in the tomb to die at his side. Radvanovsky and Giordani sang their final duet, “O terra, addio,” with a renewed freshness as though their love formed a bridge to another world. As they sang their final notes in piano unison, Grove’s chants of “Pace” put a seal on their earthly life.

Salvatore Calomino

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):