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Subject: Re: MET Aida Next Season
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:17:58 -0500
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Donald Levine wrote:

"The fact we cannot mount a decent Aida today is a whole other issue."

Well, I think this depends on what one expects a "decent" "Aida" cast to look/sound like.  I 
would have said the same thing about "Il Trovatore," but a couple of years ago I heard a 
superb Trovatore at the Met with Netrebko (one of the best Leonoras I've ever heard), 
Yonghoon Lee (outstanding), Zajick (as usual, a force of nature), and a baritone whose 
name escapes me (he was substituting for Hvorostovsky) but who sang a very decent Di 
Luna.  It was a thrilling, satisfying and, frankly, surprising performance. 

The problem is not that one cannot present a performance today of "Aida" with a good cast; 
it is, rather, that the pool of singers whom most of us would find acceptable in their roles, 
based on our present expectations, is very limited.  So, one often finds productions of Aida 
that "make do" with some singers that are in some respect less than ideal.

And let's not let false nostalgia and short memories skew our perspective.  Good casts for 
"Aida" have been in short supply for quite some time, I would say since the mid-70s; this is 
not a recent development.  Random trolling through the Met archives will turn up a lot of 
performances of "Aida" since then that would hardly be called golden age stuff.  For 
example, in the 11 performances of Aida in the 1978-79 season, Bergonzi sang 3, Guy 
Chauvet 3, Giorgio Lamberti 4, and Ermanno Mauro 3.  Apart from Bergonzi, not much to 
excite.  Still, there have always been singers, including now, who, if one could get them 
together, would IMO constitute a "decent Aida" cast.

I am currently reading Phillip Gossett's outstanding book, "Divas and Scholars," and it raises 
the question whether our expectations for certain roles like Manrico, Leonora, Aida and 
Radames have not over time become quite different from what Verdi would have expected 
from casting in his own time.  But that is a subject for another post.  (Suffice it so say that 
if one imagines the role of Manrico without the stentorian interpolated high notes in "Di 
quella pira," casting the part becomes less challenging.)  

MDW

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