Arena Opera Festival 2014: ”Aida”

Arena Opera Festival 2014: ”Aida”

Arena di Verona – Opera Festival 2014
“AIDA”
opera in 4 acts. libretto Antonio Ghislanzoni
composer Giuseppe Verdi
The King SERGEI ARTAMONOV
Amneris VIOLETA URMANA
Aida HUI HE
Radamès FABIO SARTORI
Ramfis RAYMOND ACETO
Amonasro GENNADII VASHCHENKO
A messenger ANTONELLO CERON
High Priestess MARIA LETIZIA GROSELLI
Orchestra, Chorus, Ballet and Technical staff of the Arena di Verona
conductor Julian Kovatchev
directors Carlus Padrissa and Àlex Ollé
scenery Roland Olbeter
costumes Chu Uroz
lighting designer Paolo Mazzon
choreographer Valentina Carrasco
chorus master Armando Tasso
ballet director Renato Zanella
staging director Giuseppe De Filippi Venezia
Verona. 28th June, 2014

When it unexpectedly started to rain in the Arena, just as the opera was about to begin in on the opening night of this year’s Aida , it looked like the evening would be washed out. But after a false start when the real storm broke, at 10.10p.m. the opera finally got under way without further interruptions finishing at 2 a.m. The Arena was packed for the revival of the spectacular and monumental production, mounted by the innovative Catalan group Fura dels Baus last year for the Arena Festival’s centenary celebration.
It was interesting to see the production again from a year’s distance. On first viewing, the impression had been overwhelming for scope and grandeur, for innovation and technical vent…breathtaking and surprising at every turn, with any number of delightful and amazing devices and pyrotechnics: the rim of fire around the top of the Arena, the gigantic inflated sand dunes rendered even more realistic by exceptional lighting effects which cover the amphitheatre terraces, the flooded stage as the Nile, alive with crocodiles at first and later evocative with floating candles, the full moon and suspended gymnast, the sea of waving palm fronds, the shadow theatre for the ballet, the life-size, meccano elephants and camels with realistic body movements, the giant, gleaming, solar panel constructed during the performance and closing over to become the tomb-stone in the end, are just the most notable amongst many stunning effects. On the other hand some of the effects weigh the opera down, especially in the triumphal scene of the second act. The reference to the Egyptian scarabeo and the Italian scooter with the same name in a parade of electric go karts with a scarabeo logo, is cute, but together with the toxic waste barrels and mobile ladders on which the main singers are perched and the flat and packed massing of the chorus the effect is entertaining rather than spell-binding. The usual marvel and extended applause at this point of the opera becomes a short, polite acknowledgement. Consequently, too, throughout the opera, the musical side is often overwhelmed by the extravaganza.
The musical side, however, had problems of its own. The amplification of the internal female chorus, made it sound like it was coming from the bottom of a swimming pool, miking of the orchestra was uneven, and under the baton of Julian Kovatchek the tempi often lagged, and the orchestra, chorus and even the soloists were often out of synchronization….unforgivable for these Aida professionals. The impression was one of under-rehearsal and the effect was slip-shod. Fabio Sartori was a strong and commanding Radames, his voice powerful and ringing, his extension smooth and his musical line rich in dramatic articulation. The beautiful, rich vocal quality and lovely sustained phrasing of the Hui He, as Aida, seemed pushed to the limits and especially in the high register was often flat. Violeta Urmana was most incisive in her high register with her middle voice a little opaque in comparison. Her portrayal of Amneris gathered force in the final act. Gennadii Vashchenko was a light-weight Amonasro in a production which needed a forceful character and a strong vocal personality. Raymond Aceto was a convincing Ramfis and Sergei Artamonov an adequate Re, although the staging made it difficult to be dignified. Antonello Ceron was a clear and precise messenger. Maria Letizia Groselli‘s off-stage High Priestess was consistently flat in pitch.
The production is definitely memorable and perhaps its greatest merit is having exploited to its fullest the natural and vast spaces of the amphitheatre. A unique and compelling moment, is the almost imperceptible enactment of the Ethiopians’ escape amongst the distant sand dunes as Amonasro sings of their plight. But there are many other details that make this cinemagraphic edition worth experiencing.

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2 comments

  1. Arno van Raaphorst

    Two days ago we went to Aida. All soloist have been replaced. It is probably much worse than before. Mara Josè Siri as Aida is the only soloist than can reach her public. She carries the whole performance withe a little help from Luca Salsi as Amonasro. He is good and when Aida and Amonasro sing their duetto, their really happens something on stage. Walter Fraccano is Radames. He can’t handle the total of the Arena with his voice. When he sings together with Aida it is ok. The rest of the soloist can’t impress with their singing.
    Julian Kovatchev makes a terrible impression. He can’t controll the orchestra that is out of balance (the first trumpet player thinks the whole opera is a trumpetconcerto, He should be fired on the spot). The orchestra wants to go faster and faster, The soloists want room for their musical interpretation and the conductor goes down waving his baton as an idiot. I have not seen one move of his baton that was instructive to anyone this evening. After the second intervall some of the musicians immitated the maestro as the went to their places, That did not show any respect for Julian Kovatchev. The choir is very, very week. Out of tempo, don’t know when to start etc. The conductor didn’t help the choir, but that is no excuse.
    Thiis is my impressionof the musical performance. I can go on with the directors, But then: why,?
    I come from the Netherlands to see an Italian opera, Tomorrow we go to see Turandot. It cost me over 500 euro’s for the tickets only. What I have seen is bad for opera, bad for the spectators, bad for all music lovers.
    The professional Italian that shouted VIVA VERDI after the last notes should have shouted: MEMENTO VERDI.
    Arno van Raaphorst
    professional conductor from The Netherlands

  2. Jenny Tasker

    Agree with the dutch writer above, was very disappointed with the whole production of Aida and with my eyes closed, could enjoy much of the music, however.
    Both Carmen and Turandot seen on the previous two evenings were magnificent and the maestro knew every word so was in full control of all performers, orchestra and singers. Sets, too, were superb.

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