Following her theatrical mantra of ‘Wherever possible, work with children and animals’, opera producer Ellen Kent brings us Verdi’s Aida with dancing girls, gambolling juveniles and Houdini the horse.
Her production sells itself on spectacle, and sure enough there are ‘cascades of glittering gold’ fluttering down from the flies, and a performance from fire spinner Rachael Lloyd, to dignify the Triumphal March, as well as students from the Northern Ballet School and children from Stagecoach Theatre Arts.
Nicolae Dohotaru conducted the score in his familiar, brisk style, and the chorus of the touring company of east Europeans, as ever, worked extremely hard.
The best things in the performance were the soprano and tenor, Olga Perrier and Giorgio Meladze. She, as we saw in La Bohème, is a great trouper and brought the title role to a point where (for once) it seemed the opera really was all about her and no one else. Her voice quality was sustained well, considering the load she is shouldering in this tour, with only minimal signs of strain towards the end. She animated the opening scene, brought vivid passion to ‘Numi, pietà’, and her singing in the two duet passages of Act Three lifted the atmosphere considerably.
Giorgio Meladze, as Radames, was also a considerable cut above the rest. He possessed well focused intonation, shown from the start in ‘Celeste Aida’ – something that seems to defeat some of the biggest names on some occasions, as they don’t warm up adequately before they go on. Not so he, and the added value of the French soprano and Spanish tenor to the otherwise Ukrainian/Moldovan list of principals was considerable.
Zarui Vardanean, as Amneris, has sung the role for Ellen Kent many times and, though solid and powerful in tone, was not able to summon the venom-spitting fire it can ideally take on; Oleksandr Forkushak, as the King of Egypt, displayed again his rich bass timbre.
Reverting to the matter of animals, I noticed one scene had two parrots in cages to add to the menagerie. And yet their movement abilities seemed strictly limited. Was that some kind of visual joke?