In Italian with English
Antonio Ghislanzoni after a scenario by Auguste Mariette
Conductor: Joseph Rescigno
Stage direction: Brian Deedrick
Chorus direction: Leslie Uyeda
Wolfram Salicki with additional costumes by Christine Reimer
Lighting: Stephen Ross
Choreography: Jean Léger
Stage Manager: Sheila Munn
Dates: 12 - 23 October
Vancouver Opera has
opened its new season with an ambitious undertaking - Aïda.
This opera is not for the faint-hearted but this assay is a triumph.
Susan Neves as Aida sang magnificently. Her very difficult aria "O
patria mia" was achieved with beautiful piano passages, especially
the famous high C. Her wide and delicately controlled dynamic range made
her Aida vulnerable, brave and heart-breaking. Renzo Zulian brought a
lovely voice to Radames. His aria 'Celeste Aïda' was extremely
Of the three characters in the love triangle only Amneris has been given
any character development. Jean Stilwell took the Pharaoh's daughter from
privilege through desire, jealousy, rage and despair --with great art.
Her voice in ensemble was sometimes over-powered but never her character.
Mark Rucker as Aida's father Amonasro, Dean Elzinga as Ramfis and Taras
Kulish (the Pharoah) all sang well as did newcomers Marie-Josée Lord (High
Priestess) and Neil Wright (messenger).
Under the direction of Leslie Uyeda, the Vancouver Opera Chorus turned
in a fine performance. The 'Ritorna vincitor' chorus was so rousing one
was tempted to join in.
The Vancouver Opera orchestra under Joseph Rescigno matched the brilliant
singing of the principals and the enthusiasm of the chorus.
Aida presents problems of contrast in production. Massive Egyptian architecture
on the one hand and the constrictions of a tomb on the other, as well
as the grand gestures of patriotism and the private passions of love and
honour had to be accommodated. Stage director Brian Deedrick carried this
off reasonably well, though he would have been helped by better acting
from several members of the cast. Good lighting design by Stephen Ross
set intimacy off against vast Egyptian skies.
For all its Egyptian setting, the story of Aida is straight out of European
romance. This dichotomy was visually expressed by the sets and costumes
borrowed from Indianapolis Opera and Utah Opera respectively. The sets
reflected the hugeness associated with Egyptian architecture. Hieroglyphs
authentically covered every flat surface and the statues of the gods were
monumental, solid and grand. In contrast, costumes by Susan Memmott-Allred
were less successful There were no nods to the often minimal dress seen
in Egyptian paintings, and voluminous gowns made the chorus of priests
seem as sinister as an Eisteddfod gathering.
Magnificent singing more than offsets these minor cavils. The Vancouver
Opera's production of Aïda must be considered a grand success.