Aida, Bournemouth Pavilion

Aida PosterVERDI’s great opera was brought to the Pavilion for one night only by the Chisinau National Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra in a new production directed by Ellen Kent. Perhaps the most popular of all Verdi’s operas, Aida is the tragic story of a beautiful Ethiopian slave girl and her love for the Egyptian battle hero Radames.

Heading the cast was Ecaterina Danu who looked and sounded splendid. Her Radames too (Igor Macareno) was in pretty good voice, although, sadly, not the fine figure of a man he might have been – an ill-fitting costume doing little to enhance his stage presence. The two were ably supported by the other principals: arch-rival Amneris (Princess of Egypt) sung by Zarui Verdanean and Amonasro (the defeated King of Ethopia and Aida’s father) sung by Iurie Gisca – to my mind the finest voice of the evening. The all-important chorus was superb and conductor Nicholae Dohotaru got the most out of what was, essentially, a fairly small orchestra.

One does not come looking for elephants in a touring production, but I for one was looking forward to the amazing fire effects so prominently advertised on the posters. Suffice to say they were a disappointment – a series of burners at the front of the stage and a young lady spinning two fire poi are hardly what one might call spectacular. But the sets (practical rather than opulent) and most of the costumes were effective – fortunate as, in the first act at least, it was spectacle rather than a sense of drama that carried the production. The early interactions between Radames, Amneris and Aida herself, for example, came across as wooden and in need of rather more direction, and maybe a bit of adrenaline too.

Following the first interval, things improved considerably with a powerful duet between Amneris and Aida as the former wheedles out the truth behind her slave’s secret lover, and then, later still, as Aida’s father persuades his daughter that the fate of the entire Ethiopian nation depends upon her actions. The terrible dilemma Aida finds herself in was well handled and a full range of musical emotion was in evidence as the two of them argued and eventually came to their agreement.

The production has been on what looks like a gruelling tour since the end of September and continues until early next month before resuming again in early February. Understandably, perhaps, it was feeling just a little bit tired last night.

Thursday 14th November 2013

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