Sterling debut by Ukrainian soprano

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to aida - Liudmyla Monastyrska Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera Aida

AIDA

PRODUCTION: Sonja Frisell

CONDUCTOR: Fabio Luisi

CAST: Liudmyla Monastyrska, Olga Borodina, Roberto Alagna, George Gagnidze, Stefan Kocán, Miklós Sebestyén

SETS: Gianni Quaranta

COSTUMES: Dada Saligeri

LIGHTING: Gil Wechsler

CHOREOGRAPHY: Alexey Ratmansky

RUNNING TIME: 244 minutes

RATING: *****

Lavish and grand, this latest Met Opera incarnation of Verdi’s Aida scores where it really matters, namely in a total range of vocal prowess and sensibility.

Getting an international cast of greatness and stature together is always challenging, but here the company’s artistic wizards hit the jackpot full-on.

Taking real ownership of the title role is only granted to and reserved for any century’s greatest singers. We had a Callas, Chiara, Freni, Price, Tebaldi and a couple of hand-picked others, but here an extraordinary soprano talent from Kiev in the Ukraine was head- hunted to make her Met debut: Liudmyla Monastyrska (pictured) , a young voice with a combination of a bright and creamy tone-colour, riding both beautifully and expressively over the phrases while acquiring new depths of imagination.

Monastyrska shades her part with exemplary and especially individual musicality and often ravishing pianissimos. This is all combined with natural, understated acting. Especially Acts 3 and 4 are distinguished by her acuity of voice and mind. O patria mia, which can so easily sound hackneyed, here sounds as if newly minted, with every phrase betraying Aida’s emotions and thoughts.

The slave girl’s conflicting feelings are presented from the heart, with La Tra Foreste Vergini reflecting accuracy and delicacy, while the moving enunciation of O Terra, Addio reminds you of her compelling artistry as a whole. In opera terms she is a real find, a voice fully developed to an astounding level of maturity.

Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina strikes many sparks in her characterisation of Amneris. She’s assertive, without upfront old school gallery-hunting histrionics. She’s at her very best in the opening scene of Act 4 where she is subtle and effective. Here she’s also unflinching in her high As and B flats.

Roberto Alagna is still maturing far beyond the stage where most tenors become aware of their sell-by date. His Radames grows in stature from his opening Celeste Aida. This reflects virility and a vocal acumen. He’s totally convincing in bringing the glory of the aria and the sensitivity with which it ends to the centre stage. He and Monastyrska make the final scene deeply moving.

George Gagnidze’s Amonasro, Stefan Kocán’s Ramfis and Miklós Sebestyén’s King all have the type of vocal and dramatic qualities that befit a top-class casting, while the chorus, dancers and extras in this lavish production give us the best in the tradition of grand opera.

The greatest asset of this Aida is Fabio Luisi’s conducting which has plenty of Italianate fervour, while accentuating the score’s wide ranging and also refined orchestration.

His continuing and growing rapport and loyalty towards the Met’s artistic aims has opened up a new chapter in their history. This is especially found in his willingness to work with each individual singer to achieve higher levels in musical characterisation, leading to a more truthful reflection of opera as a gripping art form for our times.

• Screening at all Cinema Nouveau and selected Ster-Kinekor theatres.


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