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Subject: Re: OPERA-L Digest - 5 Nov 2016 to 6 Nov 2016 (#2016-1108)
From: Nina Gettler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Nina Gettler <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 6 Nov 2016 22:39:18 -0800
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Thanks for the great review. I feel as if I'd been there.

Nina Gettler


On 11/6/2016 9:00 PM, OPERA-L automatic digest system wrote:
> Date:    Sun, 6 Nov 2016 18:59:10 -0800
> From:    Maxwell Paley<[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: SF Opera "Aida"
>
> For as popular as it is, I think =E2=80=9CAida=E2=80=9D is the opera one =
> is least likely to see in a truly great performance that does justice to =
> the work.  When that happens, it transcends traditional opera and =
> becomes something magical and even mystical, but that is so rare.  The =
> parts, vocal and instrumental, are so difficult that singers and players =
> have their hands full just getting the right notes out, but getting the =
> notes out is only the beginning in conveying both the grandeur and the =
> subtlety and range of color that are in the score. =20
>
> It really takes great singers who are also great actors.  Aida herself =
> not only has to have a beautiful voice of exceptionally clear and pure =
> intonation, but she has to have significant power as well as ability to =
> shade dynamics at the very top of her range and produce an exceptional =
> range of colors.  She should also look beautiful, in order to make =
> Radames=E2=80=99 =E2=80=9CCeleste Aida=E2=80=9D credible and there =
> should be something both regal and captivatingly mysterious about her =
> that explains both his passion for her and willingness to give up his =
> country (big deal for such an ambitious guy) as well as to provoke such =
> deeply bitter jealousy from Amneris.
>
> After sustained singing. often with powerful dramatics and often in the =
> high register, Verdi really asks the impossible by wanting Aida and =
> Radames to be in faultless control of intonation and dynamics in that =
> almost Tristanesque tomb scene.
>
> Amneris is also a demanding, multi-faceted role who needs to excite both =
> fear and empathy and Verdi gives her what might be the most magnificent =
> scene of all for mezzo soprano in the final act.  Again, she needs to =
> pour out power, volume, intensity and high notes but she should be able =
> to caress the Act 2 repeated =E2=80=9CAh, vieni amor=E2=80=9D like a =
> violin.
>
> So we accept that we=E2=80=99ll almost always get serious compromises.
>
> San Francisco Opera presented a production directed by Francesca =
> Zambello with sets by Michael Yeargan that tried to avoid the Cecil B. =
> Demille Egyptiana by setting most of the opera in grey concrete =
> barrack-type settings with the men in modern dress military uniforms and =
> the women, well hard to tell because many Middle Eastern women=E2=80=99s =
> outfits still look pretty much like they probably did a couple hundred =
> years ago.
>
> One innovation didn=E2=80=99t work for me.  In the Judgement Scene, we =
> had an open window to the actual goings-on with black ribbon-like cloths =
> tied around Radames as the priests were pulling him about and trying to =
> torture responses out of him.  Two problems I found with this:  it took =
> way to much attention away from Amneris=E2=80=99 big scene and forced =
> her to unfairly compete with too much activity and it also deprived the =
> tenor of the rest that Verdi clearly calculated in before he had to sing =
> the Tomb Scene.
>
> Nicola Luisotti can be a great conductor.  I was disappointed last =
> night: beautiful fluid execution of the higher and more delicate parts =
> and plenty of pizzazz for the Triumphal Scene, but peculiar and =
> unexpected broadening of tempi deprived some of the most powerful scenes =
> (Aida/Amonasro, Radames/Amneris, Amneris/Priests) of the power and force =
> they should have.
>
> For Radames we had a big, beefy tenor with an incredibly handsome baby =
> face and a clear, bright voice with definite dark undertones and power, =
> Brian Jagde.  He had a tendency to put too much pressure into it (the =
> danger these extremely muscular types can have) which made the sound =
> powerful but impeded flow and ultimate resonance as well as beauty.  For =
> those of you with long memories, think back to young Jess Thomas.  His =
> acting consisted of doing the right poses and expressions at the right =
> time, but nothing particularly deep or individual.  No attempt at a =
> diminuendo on the =E2=80=9CCeleste Aida=E2=80=9D B-flat (but a good =
> forte note), nor (more troublesome to me) any attempt to sing it softly =
> in the Tomb Scene.  That said, a clear, strong, competent performance =
> and great eye candy.
>
> Semenchuk was a very natural Amneris who was sympathetic and attractive. =
>   She sang the softer, legato sections very well, including that =E2=80=9CA=
> h, vieni amor=E2=80=9D that I=E2=80=99ve heard a few powerhouse =
> Amnerises make a mess of.  I was disappointed with her big moments in =
> that she didn=E2=80=99t have the power and volume I=E2=80=99d expected =
> from her.  Also, her sound seems now more lean and sopranoish than when =
> I=E2=80=99ve heard her before (maybe a result of her forages into Lady =
> Macbeth and such).  Nevertheless, a major opera house performance.
>
> I have trouble watching Gagnidze (Amonasro).  He looks to me too much =
> like a kindly grandpa trying to act scary.  He goes bug eyed at high =
> notes, which rarely have much real projective force to them.  I did, =
> however, like Aceto=E2=80=99s powerful buzz-saw voice and regal demeanor =
> as Ramfis.
>
> So we come to Aida.  Difficult assessment.  Leah Crocetto has the =
> ability to lock into  a soaring resonance in her upper octave that =
> produces beautiful and powerful sounds that hover in the air after =
> she=E2=80=99s released them.  That leads you to expect better execution =
> of things like a piano B-flat or any kind of C than we get:  the piano =
> B-flat turns shaky and either has to be cut short or swelled out.  The =
> high C is certainly there but thinner and peakier around the edges than =
> ideal.  The famous one in =E2=80=9CO patria mia=E2=80=9D was attacked =
> full voice in a very ungainly manner.  But, picky, picky, she sang the =
> part overall well enough and with enough beauty and suavity of phrase as =
> to seriously earn respect.
>
> But, good Lord, she=E2=80=99s a disaster on stage.  She=E2=80=99s not =
> only short and extremely rotund, but she worsens that by bearing the =
> demeanor and  movements of a frightened four year old girl.  She spends =
> 90% of the opera with the same pouty look on her face.  Even with a bias =
> toward the voice and music, this just wasn=E2=80=99t acceptable.  Not =
> only now, it wouldn=E2=80=99t have been acceptable 50 years ago.
>
> So, kudos for competent work in an opera that makes mere competence a =
> serious challenge, but not an overwhelming experience and not =E2=80=9Cthe=
> =E2=80=9D experience that =E2=80=9CAida=E2=80=9D can be.
>
> Max Paley=


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