Reviews & Ratings for
"The Metropolitan Opera HD Live" Verdi: Aida (2012)

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Wonderful production, possibly my personal favourite production of the 7th season

9/10
Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
23 December 2012

I've said before that the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series is not entirely consistent. It has some gems as well as some real disappointments, while most fall within the solid-very good category. Thus far, I've enjoyed this series very much, even my least favourite Otello had a lot of good things. This Aida for me is my personal favourite, though L'Elisir D'Amore was a lot of fun and The Tempest was very interesting and ambitious. While the 1985 and 1989 productions are still the best productions of Aida I've seen, this Aida is one of the better ones and even better than the impressive 2009 production also from the Met.

Visually the production is stunning, of the seventh series so far it is Aida that was the best-looking. The sets are large and very lavish, and the costumes are intricate in detail. On a technical front when seeing it in the cinema as part of a live simulcast, I was also impressed. The camera work is very good, especially in Act 2 in the Grand March, and the picture quality is clear and sharp. The sound is a different matter, with the early parts of the performance hindered by a disconcerting echo effect especially when capturing Alagna's singing. The stage direction is well and truly impressive as well, always compelling and dramatic, complete with very dynamic and deeply felt choreography. And I have to say that the Grand March is a triumph here, where I'm standing few opera houses have done this scene as well as the Met have done.

Musically there is nothing to complain about. There is some really evocative orchestral playing yet it allows for the more sensitive moments like O Patria Mia to be every bit as effective. The chorus are well up to the task as well, their animated stage presence and full-throated singing make for some outstanding work particularly in Act 2. This is all made possible by the conducting of Fabio Luisi. His Verdi interpretations continue to get better and better, getting more poetic and fluid. His musicianship, phrasing and textural balances are really excellent here, as are his efficient tempos.

Liudmyla Monastyrska for me is the best Aida since Aprile Millo. Aida is a role of endurance and sensitivity, demands that can go either way, and demands that Monastyrska meets wonderfully. Her singing is full in timbre, big in size and beautiful in sound, doing justice to both the dramatic and the reflective moments, and her acting is impassioned in Act 3 and very poignant in the opening and final acts. Roberto Alagna is vastly superior here than he is in his earlier performance in 2006. Here he is in much better voice, yes there is still a tendency to sing sharp but the phrasing is more intelligent and the top notes less strained(he is one of few to take the final B flat of Celeste Aida as written in the score). As an actor, he is noble and heroic, and also benefits from actually not looking ridiculous.

Olga Borodina is brilliant as Amneris, the most complex character of the opera and one of Verdi's most interesting mezzo roles(only Azucena and Eboli are on the same level in difficulty, Lady Macbeth also though I've often encountered sopranos singing). Her voice is rich and fills the house and auditorium with no effort at all. Not all the notes have a sensuous quality to them in the case of some of her top in the final act, but much of the voice shows full command of the vocal demands of the role. Dramatically, she totally inhabits Amneris, with nothing less than convincing. George Gadnidze may not quite be powerful enough vocally as Amonasro and he does have a tendency to shout, but his vocal expression is exciting enough and Act 3 is acted with passion and ruthless abandon.

Stefan Kocan is the most sonorous he's been from a vocal standpoint, and his Ramfis brims with authority. His stern facial expressions alone make for a character that is not to be messed with. Sebestyén plays the King/Il Re with great regality, almost like a Pontius Pilate sort of performance come to think of it. His singing is just as firm as Kocan, except I'd also consider it a warmer one. All in all, a wonderful and visually stunning production with great performances. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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