The Teatro Lirico D'Europa put on Verdi's "Aida" in Charleston's Gaillard
Auditorium on Tuesday night (Feb. 25) this past Tuesday and drew about half
a house. The company is one of those dedicated to teeny-tiny productions of
massively elaborate operas they have no business attempting. It boasts a
competent orchestra of 50, a chorus of 40, and a reasonably picturesque set
of stage settings. Krassimir Topolov's conducting is efficient but needs
The biggest shortcoming of the company is in production values. There is no
stage direction to speak of, and singers mostly stroll out, plant their
feet, sing and stroll off again. Costumes are generic glitz. Lighting ranges
from bright to dark (this Nile Scene was so dark nobody's face was visible
at all, ever). Performers sing, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, and seldom
with any apparent knowledge of the text. The lack of rehearsal extended to
the curtain calls, in which the cast looked angry and confused and bumped
into each other.
The company tenor, Roumen Doykov, has a large, leathery tenor that shows
signs of age but no trace of shyness. His sweeping entrances and exits, and
deep bows after his aria, provide comedy in an opera that doesn't have many
laughs. Aida was Vesna Ginivsky-Ilkova, a highly erratic soprano with a
large and penetrating upper voice, not much low register at all, and an
uncertain technique. She is one of those singers who accompanies her vocal
efforts with a constant display of what seem to be swimming exercises. Her
collision with the climactic High C of "O Patria Mia" was emphatic and
Amonasro was Nicolay Dobrev, owner of a firm and sizable baritone, and
Amneris was Ambra Vespasiani, probably the best singer in the cast, though
her vocal endowment is pounds too light for this role. Her idea of acting an
Egyptian princess seemed to be to walk slowly, never move the arms, and
frown a lot.
Why do companies like this exist? And why do they insist on putting on
operas so impossibly out of their league? Add that to the long list of
Life's Unanswered Questions.
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