Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

San Diego Opera Opens 2014-2015 Season

On Friday evening September 5, 2014, tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a recital to open the San Diego Opera season. After all the threats to close the company down, it was a great joy to great San Diego Opera in its new vibrant, if slightly slimmed down form.

Otello at ENO

English National Opera’s 2014-15 season kicked off with an ear-piercing orchestral thunderbolt. Brilliant lightning spears sliced through the thick black night, fitfully illuminating the Mediterranean garret-town square where an expectant crowd gather to welcome home their conquering hero.

Anna Nicole, back with a bang!

It is now three and a half years since Anna Nicole was unleashed on the world at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Norma in San Francisco

It was a Druid orgy that overtook the War Memorial. Magnificent singing, revelatory conducting, off-the-wall staging (a compliment, sort of).

Joyce DiDonato starts Wigmore Hall new season

There was a quasi-party atmosphere at the Wigmore Hall on Monday evening, when Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano reprised the recital that had kicked off the Hall’s 2014-15 season with reported panache and vim two nights previously. It was standing room only, and although this was a repeat performance there certainly was no lack of freshness and spontaneity: both the American mezzo-soprano and her accompanist know how to communicate and entertain.

Aida at Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

In strict architectural terms, the stupendous 2nd century Roman theatre of Aspendos near Antalya in southern Turkey is not an arena or amphitheatre at all, so there are not nearly as many ghosts of gored gladiators or dismembered Christians to disturb the contemporary feng shui as in other ancient loci of Imperial amusement.

St Matthew Passion, Prom 66

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra brought their staging of Bach's St Matthew Passion to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, 6 September 2014.

Glimmerglass: Butterfly Leads the Pack

Every so often an opera fan is treated to a minor miracle, a revelatory performance of a familiar favorite that immediately sweeps all other versions before it.

Operalia, the World Opera Competition, Showcases 2014 Winners

On August 30, Los Angeles Opera presented the finals concert of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, the world opera competition. Founded in 1993, the contest endeavors to discover and help launch the careers of the most promising young opera singers of today. Thousands of applicants send in recordings from which forty singers are chosen to perform live in the city where the contest is being held. Last year it was Verona, Italy, this year Los Angeles, next year London.

Elektra at Prom 59

The second day of the Richard Strauss weekend at the BBC Proms saw Richard Strauss's Elektra performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 31 August 2014 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, with Christine Goerke in the title role.

Powerful Mahler Symphony no 2 Harding, BBC Proms London

Triumphant! An exceptionally stimulating Mahler Symphony No 2 from Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Prom 57 at the Royal Albert Hall. Harding's Mahler Tenth performances (especially with the Berliner Philharmoniker) are pretty much the benchmark by which all other performances are assessed. Harding's Mahler Second is informed by such an intuitive insight into the whole traverse of the composer's work that, should he get around to doing all ten together, he'll fulfil the long-held dream of "One Grand Symphony", all ten symphonies understood as a coherent progression of developing ideas.

Nina Stemme's stunning Strauss Salome, BBC Proms London

The BBC Proms continued its Richard Strauss celebrations with a performance of his first major operatic success Salome. Nina Stemme led forces from the Deutsche Oper, Berlin,at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 30 August 2014,the first of a remarkable pair of Proms which sees Salome and Elektra performed on successive evenings

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

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):