Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (Savonlinna Opera Festival)

IT 1871. An opera in four acts.
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni after Camille Du Locle´s French text based on the Scénario anonyme attribué à Auguste Mariette (1870).
First performed in Cairo, Khedivial Opera House, 24 December 1871.

Conductor: Elio Boncompagni
Stage director: András Mikó
Revised production: Jere Erkkilä
Stage and costume designer: Seppo Nurmimaa
Choreographer: Heikki Värtsi
Répétiteur: Ulrika Hallberg
Lighting designer: Kimmo Ruskela
Chorus master: Matti Hyökki
Make-up and hair: Jani Kylmälä

King of Egypt, bass: Timo Riihonen
Amneris, his daughter, mezzo-soprano: Anna Smirnova
Aida, Amneris´s Ethiopian slave, soprano: Csilla Boross
Radamès, Captain of the Egyptian Guard, tenor: Walter Fraccaro
Ramfis, High Priest, bass: Mika Kares
Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, Aida´s father, baritone: Vladimir Moroz
A messenger, tenor: Petri Bäckström 
Priestess, soprano: Marjukka Tepponen

Dancers: Andrea Bena, Linda Haakana, Petia Ilieva, Antti Keinänen, Nikolas Koskivirta, Virve Olsson, Aki Pakarinen, Emmi Pennanen, Evaldas Bielinis, Milla Eloranta, Tiia Huuskonen, Elena Ilyina, Emilia Karmitsa, Kare Länsivuori, Jarkko Niininen, Susanna Sell, Aapo Siikala, Teemu Tainio, Emre Tanis, Marjaterttu Willman.

Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra
Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir

E-surtitles in Finnish and English. Visited in Savonlinna, 25 July 2012.

Parallel listening during the week: Giuseppe Verdi: Aida. Decca 2 cd, 2011. Cat: 417439. A recording from 1986 from the production of Teatro alla Scala, recorded at Studio Albanella, Milano, conducted by Lorin Maazel, with Maria Chiara as Aida and Luciano Pavarotti as Radamès. Putting the cd in the computer there is access to the libretto and bonus audio material.

Festival website: "This Verdi masterpiece of mammoth proportions, complete with vast crowd scenes, dancers and marching soldiers, is matched to perfection in Olavinlinna Castle in the production directed by András Mikó and visualised by Seppo Nurmimaa. The stirring effects of this opera set in ancient Egypt do not, however, detract from the tragic triangle drama acted out on the stage."

"The military fortunes of the Egyptians and the Ethiopians wax and wane, but the ultimate victor is the masterly music of Giuseppe Verdi captured as nowhere else in the splendid acoustics of Olavinlinna Castle. Aida, the Savonlinna Opera Festival’s greatest spectacle, will be taking the Castle by storm again in summer 2012." (Festival website)

Kimmo Korhonen in the introduction to the libretto: "Aida is one of the late Verdi operas. The famous 'galley-slave' years of the 1840s, when Verdi was under permanent pressure to keep producing operas, were a thing of the past. As his reputation grew, he was gradually able to dictate his terms, to take his time and to pay more attention to detail and dramatic structure. By the time Aida was premiered, nearly five years had elapsed since his previous opera, Don Carlos, and he was to compose only two more masterpieces, Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893)."

"The fact that the commission came from Cairo well justified the choice of an Egyptian topic. This subject was developed by the distinguished Egyptologist August Mariette and drafted in prose by one of the two Don Carlos librettists, Camille du Locle. The libretto proper was, however, the work of Antonio Ghislanzoni, using du Locle's draft as a basis. True to form, Verdi strongly intervened in the editing of the text and bombarded Ghislanzoni with proposals for alterations."

"An opera of mighty effects, Aida is a Verdi version of a French grand opera. Both the exotic choice of subject and the massive victory scene in the second act, complete with ballet, are a seamless continuation of the grand opera tradition. Yet basically Aida is a psychologically charged triangle drama between two women and one man. The lovers are, in true Verdi style, a soprano (Aida) and a tenor (Radamès, Captain of the Egyptian Guard), with a mezzo-soprano (Amneris) trying to force her way between them. Also influencing the course of events are two mighty men, the Chief Priest Ramfis (bass) and Aida's father, the captured King of the Ethiopians, Amonasro."

"Of all the characters, Ramfis is really the only one who is singularly odious. The most subtle of all is possibly Amneris, who clearly emerges as more interesting than the conventional 'evil' mezzo-soprano and becomes increasingly human as the story unfolds; at one stage Verdi even thought of naming the opera after her. Even Amonasro, who seems at first sight to be engaged in an act of treachery, is revealed at the dramatic climax in act three as being fired by patriotism."

"The setting for the action, ancient Egypt, was an opportunity for Verdi to use exotic elements. Examples are the priests and priestesses, the unusual scales heard from time to time, the magnificent evocation of the moonlit Nile at the beginning of act three, and the special Aida trumpets in the victory scene. Verdi does not, however, overdo the exoticism, since the demands of the drama acted out by his characters are always uppermost. The result is a focused, almost classical opera."

"Verdi shows himself, in Aida, to be a complete master of his tools. He was thus all the more vexed by those who saw in it the influence of Wagner. One reason for such claims was the use of personal motifs: both Aida and Amneris have themes of their own. Any talk of Wagnerian influence is, however, misleading, since the world of the opera is that of Verdi and Verdi alone." (Kimmo Korhonen).

AA: Aida is yet another great success production in the history of the Savonlinna Opera Festival and a centerpiece of the centenary jubilation. The rugged force of the Olavinlinna castle is again in use. Egyptian guards were welcoming us as we entered the castle from the bridge. The costume design was splendid and elegant. The performance was powerful: exhilarating in the chorus scenes, moving in the stories of unfulfilled loves and devastating in the tragic outcome. The dynamic balance of the musical presentation functioned very well. I saw Aida for the first time in a live performance but was familiar with the music. The legendary chorus scenes can be appreciated in their full force only in a live presentation, and the lyrical arias also get a special impact in this context. The singers are very good, and especially Csilla Boross as Aida impresses with her tender interpretation. According to Kimmo Korhonen (quoted above) Verdi was annoyed by the commentators who noticed an influence of Wagner. No need to, because the musical world is totally Verdian. Having seen The Flying Dutchman two days ago it was impossible to ignore the Liebestod ending of Aida. In The Flying Dutchman Senta follows the ghostly Dutchman to the beyond, and in Aida the Princess of Ethiopia joins her beloved Radamès in death row in his crypt.

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