After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

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lennygoran
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After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by lennygoran » Sat Mar 02, 2019 5:50 am

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So glad we got to see this live one last time a few months ago-definitely my kind of production-quite a few video clips if you can get to the site. Regards, Len


After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’


By Zachary Woolfe

March 1, 2019

“O terra, addio,” the doomed lovers sing at the end of Verdi’s “Aida,” bidding the earth adieu. Now, after 31 years and 251 performances, the time has come for the Metropolitan Opera’s sprawling, sturdy, utterly traditional, utterly delightful “Aida” production to join them in farewell.

The well-worn, well-loved show will play just twice more, on March 4 and 7 (numbers 252 and 253). Then its weathered hieroglyphics, its applause-garnering live horses, its looming walls of craggy stone-esque plaster and its gold-sprayed props will all be sealed in storage, as securely as Aida and Radamès in their tomb at the opera’s end.

Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, confirmed in an interview that when “Aida” returns, it will be to open the 2020-21 season in a new production directed by Michael Mayer and designed by Christine Jones, the pair that updated the Met’s “Rigoletto” to 1960s Las Vegas. Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct a starry cast: Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili, Piotr Beczala and Ludovic Tézier.

“It will be as epic and grand as the current production,” Mr. Gelb said, “in a completely different way.” (And, in news that will give succor to audience members mulling late-night Metro-North trains back to Scarsdale, it will also eliminate one of the current staging’s two intermissions.)

Perhaps it’s not fashionable for a critic, especially one with a taste for the progressive in opera productions, to cop to loving the Met’s “Aida,” which was originally mounted in 1988 in majestic Franco Zeffirelli-ish style by Sonja Frisell, who got the gig after Mr. Zeffirelli’s own concept proved impossibly expensive, even for the go-go ’80s.

But I love it.

I love the shadow-strewn scene on which the curtain rises during the soft final bars of the prelude. I love when Gianni Quaranta’s sets show just the giant heads and feet of temple carvings, as if to indicate we’re seeing merely the tip of the iceberg of a whole civilization. I love how Amneris’s attendants hilariously pretend to play the harp in the second act, and how one of them does a wonderfully unnecessary show of presenting perfumes for her to sample. I love how opera can sometimes be about what’s unnecessary, about what’s extravagant, fun, sensorily stimulating.

I love when the stage slowly lowers to reveal the sun-baked Triumphal Scene. I love the ridiculous too-much-ness of that moment, with extras circling back into the parade again and again in different costumes, trying to convince us that this really is a cast of thousands. I love the flickering torchlight emanating from the chamber where the priests judge Radamès. I love the starlit Nile Scene, and I love the smoky temple rituals.


Will the new production be better? Maybe. It will almost certainly be less hulking: Mr. Gelb said a major element will be projections by Mark Grimmer of 59 Productions, the design firm that has practically taken up residence at the Met.

But the company’s departing, bulky, stage-filling simulacrum of ancient Egypt deserves an elegy for showing up, season after season, and finding the balance on which 19th-century grand opera relies: between awesome spectacle and intimate drama. The Frisell “Aida” stuck that difficult landing time and again, and it deserves our gratitude.

It’s being put to bed honorably, with a cast that sings well and commits itself to the drama. The soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is for once an Aida who seems like the princess she is, proud and forthright. Ms. Radvanovsky has calmed a voice that used to have starker edges, though her tone is still chalky.

With his haunting, echoey baritone, Quinn Kelsey is an unusually sinister Amonasro. As Radamès, the tenor Jorge de León is blunt but sincere and charming — much like the production. And while the commanding bass Soloman Howard is always a pleasure as the King, will the Met ever give him another role?

The best surprise is the mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova, who, after a handful of minor roles with the company, delivers a thrilling Amneris. Her voice has less plummy power than Ms. Rachvelishvili’s, but it penetrates, without ever losing its gentleness of texture. And she deploys it with delicacy and feeling through the full range of the character’s moods. Rarely have I seen an Amneris so plausibly lovelorn, so earnestly pained.

When this production had its premiere on Dec. 8, 1988, the Radamès was Plácido Domingo. In a memorable bit of poetic symmetry, he returns for these final performances, this time on the podium, helping the great ocean liner sail one last time.


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/01/arts ... verdi.html

maestrob
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Re: After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 02, 2019 1:15 pm

Thanks for that, Len. I have the telecast of Aida with Netrebko and Rachvelishvili on DVD and will treasure it for the singing as well as the sets.

FWIW, my favorite CD of Aida is Leontyne Price's first recording with Tucker and Bumbry, led by Solti. It's never been out of print all these years.

John F
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Re: After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by John F » Sat Mar 02, 2019 3:41 pm

Frisell's production of "Aida" is expensive to revive, as were Zeffirelli's and other such shows, and they are being replaced by cheaper ones. The new "Aida," it's said, will rely heavily on projections, which are easily changed and cost essentially nothing to maintain. The 20th century saw the change from painted flats to solid three-dimensional scenery; now that's being reversed.
Last edited by John F on Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by lennygoran » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:50 am

maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 1:15 pm
FWIW, my favorite CD of Aida is Leontyne Price's first recording with Tucker and Bumbry, led by Solti. It's never been out of print all these years.
Brian I have Vickers, Gorr, Merrill, Tozzi and Leontyne Price-Rome Opera House-Solti-a London ffrr recording. We saw Price do it live at her last performance of the opera-she was great!
BTW we placed our order with the Met for next season-did it on/line but it didn't go that easily-eventually had to call for help-I blame their website-you get to the final step after the order and after you've put all the info in it doesn't give you that final chance to complete the deal-a box office helper there retook the order as we spoke on the phone-best option for me seemed 2 flex subscriptions-6 in each --got 10% of total order-of course I don't have the exact seats yet. BTW that representative told me that on March 6 the Met will allow you to buy individual tickets for the first set of Ring performances-the other 2 have not yet been released. Regards, Len

maestrob
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Re: After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by maestrob » Sun Mar 03, 2019 9:59 am

lennygoran wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:50 am
maestrob wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 1:15 pm
FWIW, my favorite CD of Aida is Leontyne Price's first recording with Tucker and Bumbry, led by Solti. It's never been out of print all these years.
Brian I have Vickers, Gorr, Merrill, Tozzi and Leontyne Price-Rome Opera House-Solti-a London ffrr recording. We saw Price do it live at her last performance of the opera-she was great!
BTW we placed our order with the Met for next season-did it on/line but it didn't go that easily-eventually had to call for help-I blame their website-you get to the final step after the order and after you've put all the info in it doesn't give you that final chance to complete the deal-a box office helper there retook the order as we spoke on the phone-best option for me seemed 2 flex subscriptions-6 in each --got 10% of total order-of course I don't have the exact seats yet. BTW that representative told me that on March 6 the Met will allow you to buy individual tickets for the first set of Ring performances-the other 2 have not yet been released. Regards, Len
There goes my memory! I checked the disc later and of course you're right! :roll: :oops:

Anyway, it's still my favorite Aida on disc!

lennygoran
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Re: After 31 Years, Farewell to the Met Opera’s Grand, Gaudy ‘Aida’

Post by lennygoran » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:36 pm

maestrob wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 9:59 am
There goes my memory!
Brian I'm all too familiar with this phenomenon. Regards, Len :(

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