Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

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):