This was the second night of opera presented by Ellen Kent , La Boheme having been successfully played the night before. Many of that cast assumed new principle roles and many in the audience had come for a second helping of operatic splendour. La Boheme benefits from a theatre setting, its romantic intimacy mirrored by the auditorium. Aida, by contrast, is a grand affair, often presented in amphitheatres and arenas so the demands are on the staging to reach out rather than draw in. As such it counterpoints the talents of Puccini and Verdi rather well.
Aida itself was first performed in 1871 . The Egyptians have captured and enslaved Aida, an Ethiopian princess. An Egyptian military commander, Radamès, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. But the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris is in love with Radamès, and so unfolds a classic tale of jealousy, tragedy, ambition and unrequited love.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ellen the night before. Her enthusiasm for opera and her productions was obvious as was her determination to both meet the needs of opera aficionados whilst appealing to those who might normally avoid the genre. Surtitles assist those not familiar with the story and a burgeoning cast, with spectacle and special effects galore, all aim to entice first – timers.
The staging features temple dancers, ballet , Bedouin dancers, and the ceremonial march with a much vaunted pyrotechnic display featuring a wall of fire and a cast of local extras to swell the numbers of the march as slaves and soldiers.
Principle roles were taken by Elena Dee as Aida, Sorin Lupu as Radames and Iurie Gisca as Amonasro the King of Ethiopia.Soprano Dee sings the titular role of Aida with passion and conviction. Standout performances include Act III’s “Qui Radamès verrà!” and “O patria mia (O cieli azzurri)” Although it took her some time to settle into the pitches of the latter in a nostalgic rendition all was forgiven when she nailed the aria’s famous high C.
Lupu clearly enjoys himself as Radames. From Act I’s “Se quel guerrier io fossi!” and “Celeste Aida” to Act IV’s “Vedi? Di morte l’angelo,” he preens and struts breathing life into an underwritten role.
Nicolae Dohotaru conducted the Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic from Moldova with a fine operatic sweep , althougth the strings in the opening overture seemed a little uncertain However overall it was a production that was up to the task and did justice to the bi-centenary of Verdi’s death.