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HomeOperaIn Dresden, Christian Thielemann’s first Aida is a triumph – Seen and...

In Dresden, Christian Thielemann’s first Aida is a triumph – Seen and Heard Worldwide


Germany Verdi, Aida: Soloists, Dancers, Dresden State Opera Refrain, Staatskapelle Dresden / Christian Thielemann (conductor). Livestreamed (directed by Michael Beyer) on 13.3.2022 from the Semperoper Dresden and accessible till 12.6.2022. (JPr)

Georg Zeppenfeld (Ramfis) and Oksana Volkova (Amneris) (c) Ludwig Olah

Manufacturing:
Staging – Katharina Thalbach
Set and Costume design – Ezio Toffolutti
Lighting design – Fabio Antoci
Choreography – Christopher Tölle
Dramaturg – Johann Casimir Eule
Refrain director – André Kellinghaus

Forged:
The King – Andreas Bauer Kanabas
Amneris – Oksana Volkova
Aida – Krassimira Stoyanova
Radamès – Francesco Meli
Ramfis – Georg Zeppenfeld
Amonasro – Quinn Kelsey
A Messenger – Simeon Esper
A Temple Singer – Ofeliya Pogosyan

A number of years in the past I keep in mind the conductor Nicola Luisotti speaking about Verdi’s Aida and reflecting on how the opera ‘isn’t about elephants and camels and spectacle, though many individuals suppose it’s. Practically all scenes are with two or three folks – Aida and Radamès, Amonasro and Aida, Amneris and Radamès … The ability struggles of Church and State are very robust. We see that on the planet at the moment … The tip of the opera is determined by the monks not by the King. It’s about at the moment as a lot because it’s about Historical Egypt.’ Christian Thielemann is the conductor par excellence of German repertoire and right here was making a uncommon foray into Italian opera by conducting his first Aida and he has emphasised what Luisotti mentioned by commenting: ‘So in some way with Aida you at all times have the sensation that there’s an elephant on the stage and unbelievable intercourse orgies are being celebrated.’ The ‘elephant within the room’ – a a lot over-used phrase – is that there are such a lot of Egyptian references within the libretto that it’s troublesome to not hope for a touch of pyramids, Sphinx and a few hieroglyphs, if not an precise an precise pachyderm or two. Certainly, German actress and stage director Katharina Thalbach offers us the phantasm of Previous Kingdom Egypt and fortunately – or maybe in any other case in our present occasions? – there was not likely something of ‘at the moment’ in her Aida that I might discern. Verdi’s Aida is about warfare and we watch on because the Egyptians are proven glorying at going into battle once more with the ‘barbaric Ethiopians’, their neighbours. They’ve finished so time and time once more and are available out victorious due to their overwhelming superiority within the variety of their troopers earlier than incorporating the defeated Ethiopians into their kingdom as slaves.

Who knew that this primary collaboration between Thielemann and Thalbach would get overtaken by world occasions? At first of the efficiency, the Ukrainian nationwide anthem was performed – because it steadily now’s in such conditions – as an indication of solidarity. Thielemann performed the Staatskapelle Dresden because the refrain hauntingly sang from behind the closed curtains and a largely respectful viewers stood of their seats. With a Byelorussian and a Russian singer, Oksana Volkova and Ofeliya Pogosyan respectively, within the forged I believe politics was not a frequent matter of dialog throughout rehearsals.

Costumes and parodic ballet interludes however this was extra of a semi-staging {that a} fully-fledged one. Ramfis and Radamès seem via the shut curtains and Aida will pull them closed for ‘Ritorna vincitor!’. As for the ballets, the primary males appear to be carrying sumo wrestler fabric belts and do a pastiche Magic Mike routine earlier than a somewhat tasteful orgy follows. (Later within the second act the eight males look like recreating ‘Me Ol’ Bam-Boo’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang earlier than performing some line dancing.) Usually, choreographer Christopher Tölle has the dancers engaged in some somewhat pointlessly unimaginative motion although it does all culminate in a human pyramid. Equally the singers, both individually or in teams, simply stand round, generally posing, similar to Egyptian statuary or hieroglyphics.

Everyone seems to be contained by gold-coloured partitions on three sides with doorways to left and proper and panels that might open on the again. This was seen at its finest in Act III (‘On the banks of the Nile’) permitting Amneris to reach in a barge on the rear of the stage in entrance of the illustration of a pyramid with the good river shimmering in lapis lazuli blue. The doorway to the Temple of Isis was via and behind the legs of the decrease a part of an enormous two-dimensional Pharoah statue with its(?) head to the opposite aspect of the stage. Better of all was the raised stage extensive platform for the vault of the Temple of Vulcan on the finish of the opera and this was lowered to entomb Aida and Radamès with Amneris standing above on it and this must be one of many higher stagings of those last moments I’ve seen. This is able to have been extra shifting had the 2 illicit lovers not been costumed like Tosca and Cavaradossi.

(Entrance) Quinn Kelsey (Amonasro) and Krassimira Stoyanova (Aida) (c) Ludwig Olah

In a 1977 Aida with Plácido Domingo at Covent Backyard the extras simply ran behind the set throughout the ‘Grand March’ and returned on the opposite aspect holding up one thing totally different. Conversely, at this level within the second act my thoughts additionally goes again to Vienna – too a few years in the past that I care to recollect – when an astonishing variety of folks got here from upstage and all of it appeared to go on endlessly. In Dresden Thalbach has created one of many extra risible marches reminding me of that one in London 45 years in the past as two lengthy banners – depicting largely Egyptian deities – circled Ramfis, the King and Amneris to the rear of the stage.

Thielemann had the violins shimmering throughout the temporary orchestral prelude as in the event that they had been launching into Lohengrin. I used to be listening via loudspeakers but when I wrote the conductor was in love with the rating it would take issues a little bit too far, however it’s clear Thielemann clearly has a deep respect for it. He has enthused how ‘I at all times knew that this can be a very refined piece and that the rating consists of pianissimi and triple piani and quadruple piani’ earlier than concluding how ‘Verdi’s ending is so extremely properly written.’ Thielemann understands the essential stability there’s in Aida between personal ideas, all of the intrigues and the general public ceremonial in what will be thought-about a chamber piece in a (grandest of) grand opera frameworks. With the fantastic help of the Staatskapelle Dresden Thielemann’s Aida was a triumph.

The forged would have been completely excellent if it had simply been a live performance efficiency nevertheless this Aida was undermined by Michael Beyer’s close-up camerawork that exposed that neither Krassimira Stoyanova (Aida) nor Francesco Meli (Radamès) introduced their characters really to life they usually each did not fully disguise the vocal calls for of their roles that they surmounted artfully. Meli introduced class and lyricism to ‘Celeste Aida’ and far of the remainder of his efficiency was in the identical vein and culminated throughout his last strains of the farewell to life within the tomb the place a cultured mezza voce confirmed what an achieved singer he’s. It was on this last scene (‘O terra addio’ duet) that Meli and Stoyanova had been at their highest. Nonetheless, Meli didn’t sound as if he tried the diminuendo on the climactic excessive B flat of his opening aria as Verdi supposed, although it was superbly phrased nonetheless.

For any Aida ‘Ritorna vincitor’ is a problem, not solely vocally, however as a result of it calls for the soprano should actually give us a way of how conflicted she is. Aida loves Radamès, however is fiercely loyalty to her house, which she misses very a lot. In Stoyanova’s first two strains, we sensed her torn nature, conviction was adopted by exasperation at her state of affairs. This veteran singer continues to be in full command of her voice and her excessive notes are completely safe and better of all there was her last ‘Numi, pietà’ when Stoyanova’s voice floated quietly and prayer-like. It was a masterclass of how ‘Ritorna vincitor’ ought to be sung and Stoyanova continued to deliver many of those similar qualities to the remainder of her singing.

As actors each had been outclassed by Oksana Volkova (Amneris), Georg Zeppenfeld (Ramfis) and Quinn Kelsey (Amonasro). Certainly as this Aida went on it was Volkova who stole the present. Her mezzo-soprano voice has a contact of smokiness, and he or she sang all through with a passionate depth and ensured how by harnessing her musical and dramatic sources adroitly Volkova made each be aware and utterance depend. Her Amneris was a vengeful and vindictive maneater and Volkova was magnificent throughout the Act IV Judgement Scene when she confirmed her now to be a tragic determine cursed by her personal jealousy.

Quinn Kelsey along with his brawny baritone was excellent as an impassioned and authoritative as Amonasro, the captive Ethiopian king, to whom he introduced uncommon depth. Georg Zeppenfeld easily produced bass was luxurious casting because the implacable, shaven-headed excessive priest Ramfis who Thalbach ensured we couldn’t overlook by having him stroll round on extravagant platform sneakers and showing overly tall. He was additionally wearing black with wing-like arms and I questioned if he was presupposed to be the Egyptian god Horus, typically proven as a falcon. Andreas Bauer Kanabas was a sonorous King of Egypt who Thalbach confirmed as often enfeebled. Within the even smaller roles, Simeon Esper’s agency tenor gave the Messenger a sure presence and because the Temple Singer, Ofeliya Pogosyan – who was in white and suspended above the stage – displayed a transparent, excessive soprano voice.

Jim Pritchard

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