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Subject: 'Aida' West / 'Aida' East
From: janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:58:38 -0800

text/plain (46 lines)

Zambello's Aida Offers Rare Look Into Opera's Heart

          By Janos Gereben

SAN FRANCISCO – Even across a distance of four decades, the memory of Leonard Bernstein's musical insight and charming theatricality remains vividly in mind, prompted especially by the opening performance on Nov. 5 of a newSan Francisco Opera production of Verdi's/Aida/ <>in the War Memorial Opera House. This premiere was a co-production withWashington National Opera <>,Seattle Opera <>, andMinnesota Opera <http://minnesota%20opera/>, to be performed later at the other venues.

The Bernstein flashback came from the last of hisNorton Lectures at Harvard <>,"The Poetry of the Earth," <>which he began by playing a few notes from the "phony Egyptian ballet music" of/Aida. /Then he//stopped and asked if the audience thought he had gone mad playing this excerpt at a lecture about Stravinsky's/Oedipus Rex/.

He then went on to sing (yes) the Aida-Amneris duet, translating and explaining the text all at the same time, questioning what constitutes sincerity in music, and finally - about 90 minutes later - exclaiming in triumph that the "power of the unconscious" revealed to him the reason for connecting Verdi and Stravinsky.

They both deal with  the confrontation of  "the power and the pity," Bernstein explained, singing (an octave lower than a mezzo would) as a desperate Aida, begging Amneris: "You are mighty, and all I have is this love… Spare my despairing heart." Bernstein's message: More than the spectacle, the human drama is the key to both/Aida/and/Oedipus Rex/.

There is such potential musical-dramatic depth to Verdi's opera, rarely realized, but in San Francisco, directorFrancesca Zambello <>clearly aimed for it, writing in the program notes: "/Aida/is part of the fabric of my being. I first experienced it with huge forces, but as I have come to work on it many times as an adult, I realized it is actually a chamber piece with a huge Triumphal Scene parked in the middle of the story." <snip>



Metropolitan Opera, New York


Soon after the curtain rises in Verdi's +Aida+, the warrior-hero sings an ode to his beloved, calling the pseudo slave-girl "celestial." When the Met revived its mock-Egyptian, hyper-conventional 28-year-old staging of this masterpiece on Saturday, however, matters seemed a bit earthbound.

Vital drama was turned into a lavish kitsch-spectacular. The proceedings recalled oh-so-grand opera as depicted in those perennial New Yorker cartoons.

The stage squirmed with prancing priestesses worthy of Busby Berkeley, martial spear-carriers making and re-making their rounds and fleshy-flashy hoochy-coochy intruders slinking out of context. Everyone preened unabashedly within Gianni Quaranta's stately décors. Everyone struck picturesque poses, marched solemnly and danced, after a fashion, all in accordance with Sonja Frisell's original movement plan (now overseen by Stephen Pickover). The basic action – and inaction – may not have looked much different when the opera had its premiere in 1867.  <snip>

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