BWW Review: The San Diego Opera Brings a Thrilling AIDA
The San Diego Opera's Aida served Verdi's marvelous score without the usual extravagant sets and throngs of spear-carrying tunicked Egyptian soldiers. Although that conceded a bit of excitement, especially during the triumphal march scene, exceptional singers and musicians held the audience's attention from the mood-setting overture to the exquisite beauty of the closing duet.
The chorus, clad in black, sang on risers behind 55 members of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. That left stage-front for the cast in flashy multi-colored costumes designed by Dame Zandra Rhodes. A screen stretching the length of the stage behind the chorus displayed the silhouettes of two pyramids amidst a sea of soft sunlit pastels in colors that darkened as a moon appeared and day changed to night. A few large props bolstered the exotic setting, tall faux-stone Egyptian soldiers to each side and equally tall and faux palm-trees to the orchestra's left.
The Romeo and Juliet-like story of the Egyptian commander Radames and Aida, the
daughter of his enemy the Ethiopian King, features extended spotlight moments for each of the eight vocal roles, and there wasn't a weak link in the group. It's for good reason that this was Carl Tanner's 146th performance as Radames. Verdi demands strong vocal technique right from the tenor's opening lines, and the early well-known aria "Celeste Aida" offers many opportunities to go wrong for someone not quite warmed up. Tanner delivered it with a combination of gentleness and power that was evident throughout his entire performance.
American soprano Michelle Bradley was the slave Aida, and Russian mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova sang Princess Amneris, her Egyptian master and rival. The pair were
formidable and compelling vocal antagonists. Bradley's voice control is extraordinary. She slides with smooth agility from power that thrills to even more impressive liquid shimmering beauty. Petrova too sings with youthful freedom and strength that probably could have shattered a glass at the back of the auditorium. In the story's closing moments Aida and Radames sing of their love and approaching death. Bradley and Tanner blended well in the duet, one of the most beautiful and touching in all of opera.
Bass Simon Kim radiated authority as the high priest Ramfis. The remaining singers were equally effective. They were bass Mikhail Svetlov as the Egyptian king, baritone Nelson Martinez as Aida's father Amonasro, soprano Tasha Koontz as the high priestess soloist, and tenor Bernardo Bermudez as the messenger.
The orchestra has a more prominent role in Aida than in most operas, even more so
when out of the pit and on the stage. The San Diego Symphony responded with precision when conductor Joseph Colaneri called for a gentle whisper to accompany singers or urged regal brass to come blazing forth.
This performance was Saturday, October 19th. Additional performances are scheduled for the 22nd, 25th and 27th. Visit the San Diego Opera website for details.
Photos compliments San Diego Opera.