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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

Handel's first 'Israelite oratorio': Esther at the London Handel Festival

It’s sometimes suggested that it was the simultaneous decline of the popularity of Italian opera seria among Georgian audiences and, in consequence, of the fortunes of Handel’s Royal Academy King’s Theatre, that led the composer to turn his hand to oratorio in English, the genre which would endear him to the hearts of the nation.

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):