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HomeTheatreRobert Carsen’s fashionable, twenty-first century tackle Verdi’s Aida at Covent Backyard –...

Robert Carsen’s fashionable, twenty-first century tackle Verdi’s Aida at Covent Backyard – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United Kingdom Verdi, Aida: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of the Royal Opera Home / Sir Antonio Pappano (conductor). Broadcast (directed by Peter Jones) to Cineworld Basildon, Essex, 12.10.2022. (JPr)

Agnieszka Rehlis (Amneris) © Tristram Kenton

Director – Robert Carsen
Set designer – Miriam Buether
Costume designer – Annemarie Woods
Lighting designers – Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet
Choreographer – Rebecca Howell
Video designer – Duncan McLean
Refrain director – William Spaulding

Aida – Elena Stikhina
Radames – Francesco Meli
Amneris – Agnieszka Rehlis
Amonasro – Ludovic Tézier
Ramfis – Soloman Howard
King of Egypt – In Sung Sim
Messenger – Andrés Presno
Excessive Priestess – Francesca Chiejina

The 2 cinema broadcasts I’ve seen this season have had knowledgeable and informative shows launched by Elle Osili-Wooden who started by saying how in Robert Carsen’s new Aida manufacturing, ‘His backdrop is a spot by no means named however one through which we recognise parts of America, China and Russia. The huge corridor and bunker-like units are crammed with rows of troopers and weapons. It’s a far cry from the standard palaces and pyramids we affiliate with this traditional opera.’

It was good to have Carsen, himself, interviewed to elucidate: ‘Whenever you come to direct one thing it’s a must to work out what it’s about, and the plot or the story of the opera isn’t essentially what the precise opera is about. On this case … I got here to grasp fairly rapidly each the background and the foreground of the story of Aida are, is, struggle. And that’s after we realise that with a purpose to convey that out, we have now to depart out the picturesque facet of this. I imply the Egyptian background is gorgeous, however it is rather troublesome for us to connect with that right this moment and because the characters speak all evening lengthy about struggle, dying, patriotism, nationalism, it felt needed given the current context … it appeared essential for our fashionable world to take a contemporary tackle this piece.’ He then continued, ‘Truly, if we’re taking this away from Egypt it’s higher to not place it, switch it, precisely to an identifiable nation or international locations however to permit it to contain completely different parts of the world, sadly as a result of struggle remains to be ever-present.’

An Aida in Vienna – too a few years in the past than I care to recollect – was the opera that gave me the primary frisson that I hope for each time I return to an opera home. There, the Act II procession got here from upstage and appeared to go on for ever. My first Aida at Covent Backyard in 1977 had a handful of extras working spherical behind the set and returning – to their growing exhaustion, if I bear in mind appropriately – waving a unique banner. Right here it was merely the veneration of the fallen whose coffins had been lined up on the entrance of the stage and whose faces had been displayed on the again.

Carsen’s Konzept labored for me particularly with the struggle between Ukraine and Russia within the information headlines each day; though it needn’t have been Aida and will have been any of Verdi’s explorations of the person, love, energy, politics and faith. Troopers are largely in Annemarie Woods’s military fatigues, service uniforms or bemedaled costume uniforms in colors which are largely gray (matching Miriam Buether’s set), khaki, inexperienced or blue. In Act I we firstly see the king honored in an enormous corridor earlier than there’s a spiritual service when Radames – conflicted by his love for the enslaved Aida, truly the daughter of the enemy’s king – is introduced as commander-in-chief. The troopers in pews are brandishing their automated weapons and there’s some haunting shadow play on the finish of the act. The second act begins with Amneris (the king’s daughter) having a big photograph of Radames held on the wall and an enormous desk throughout the stage is laid for a victory dinner. Whereas we hear a lot dance music the one choreography there’s includes some calisthenics (from Rebecca Howell) for a army elite to the delight of the troopers sitting on tiered rows of seating, together with Ramfis (right here the highest-ranked military officer), the King and Amneris, and all bookended with flags. The act ends with video designer’s Duncan McLean projected photos of struggle.

Robert Carsen’s Aida © Tristram Kenton

Act III is dominated by the memorial wall to those that fell in battle on the rear and an everlasting flame on the entrance. The ultimate act returns to us to the place we had been in Act II for Radames’s court-martial, and he’s denounced by his comrades onstage (quite than off as it’s largely carried out if monks are concerned). The opera ends in an underground bunker filled with missiles and the dying Aida and Radames simply retreat into darkness. (Only a small misstep by Carsen for me and maybe the finances didn’t run to having the doomed lovers in a silo strapped to a missile being readied for launch?) Lastly, the stage lights up and leaves us with the thought-provoking picture of missiles stating in direction of us watching wherever we had been on this planet. At this level Amneris sings ‘Peace, peace, peace’!

On this threatening environment the Aida-Radames-Amneris love triangle performs out. Carsen solely permits Elena Stikhina’s Aida flashes of the princess she is, dowdily costumed she is aware of her place as Amneris’s dogsbody. Her ‘Ritorna vincitor!’ revealed all you wanted to learn about how conflicted her character is about love for Radames and love of her nation. The steely resolve was self-evident however, as heard via cinema loudspeakers, there was one thing missing in Stikhina’s voice and I by no means actually felt the sympathy for Aida’s plight that I’ve with another sopranos. Francesco Meli appears to be the go-to tenor lately as Radames and he sang sturdily sufficient trying diminuendo after diminuendo starting with the ending of ‘Celeste Aida’. He was considerably uncovered by Peter Jones’s closeup camerawork and was proven – as soon as once more – to not be pretty much as good an actor as most of these on the stage with him. Agnieszka Rehlis, making her Covent Backyard debut, was the excellent performer on this Aida not a lot in the best way she acted however the best way she reacted to every thing happening round her. She waivered brilliantly from unrequited like to unyielding jealousy to her desperation to save lots of Radames’s life. Rehlis might be a tough act to observe, even by Elīna Garanča when there are additional performances subsequent Might.

The Refrain of the Royal Opera Home – splendidly drilled by their refrain director William Spauling – impressed all through each with their stentorian energy and quiet a cappella singing. They had been undoubtedly helped by singing largely in serried rows inside a box-like set. Ludovic Tézier’s barely gruff, although sonorous, singing was solely acceptable for Aida’s vengeful father Amonasro. Ramfis was imposingly sung by Solomon Howard who has nice stage presence, while In Sung Sim because the King had the low notes and the gravitas the function calls for.

Antonio Pappano performed an expressive, lovely sounding account of the rating drawing nuanced virtuosity and beautiful colors from his glorious Royal Opera Home Orchestra, and it was vital that there have been no longueurs since stress by no means slackened.

Undoubtedly an Aida for the twenty-first century which conveniently glosses over the optics created by a ‘conventional’ method that want no dialogue right here.

Jim Pritchard



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