Aida goes marching on

Aida

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
***
A SECOND night of opera from Ellen Kent, La Bohème having played the night before, saw many of same cast reappear in new principle roles with many in the audience also returning for 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 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 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, although the string section seemed uncertain in the overture. However overall the production was up to the task and did justice to the bi-centenary of Verdi’s death.
Gary Longden

And joining the triumphal march . . .

 ****

THE Chisinau National Opera of Moldova bid farewell to the Black Country with a stunning performance of Verdi's classic Aida.

It was a visual and musical triumph with an excellent cast telling the tragic story of a beautiful Ethiopian slave girl's doomed love for Radames, heroic Captain of the Egyptian army.

Elena Dee was a delight as Aida, captured daughter of Amonasro, King of the Ethiopians. She sang superbly in expressing her love for the man given the task of conquering her country, and the anguish of her divided loyalty.

A powerful contribution, too, from Sorin Lupu in the role of Radames who was expected to marry Amneris, Princess of Egypt, as reward for his triumph on the battlefield, but heading for a sticky end through his love for Aida.

Zarui Vardanean proved a convincing Amneris, and there were impressive performances from Vladimir Dragos (King Amonasro) and Valeriu Cojocaru (Ramfis, the High Priest).

Spectacular sets and costumes added to the enjoyment of this Ellen Kent production, as did the music provided by the Moldovian orchestra, especially in the triumphal march, 

Paul Marston 

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