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Aida in Technicolor at the English National Opera

Last night I went to see Aida at the English National Opera. When I booked a few weeks earlier, there were just  the odd single seats left - clearly I forgot about the fact that Aida is a bit of a crowd-puller. So being two seats behind Ed Gardner I had a rather wide-angle view of the stage!

Claire Rutter was  the defiant yet passionate Aida. Jane Dutton made a tempestuous and bitchy Amneris. John Hudson, as Radames, took a little while to warm up at the beginning. He was brave enough to sing the last note of Celeste Aida with a pianissimo sotto voce rather than blasting it out. However, against the strong voiced Aida and Amneris, Ramades sounded at times overwhelmed (there were one or two moments where his voice sounded pushed). The chorus did very well in the second act with multiple divides - there were slaves, women, high priests, normal priests - and added much atmosphere to the subsequent trial and entombment scenes. The acrobatic show during the ballet music also worked well.

It was my first time watching Ed Gardner conduct a Verdi opera (I last
saw him at the Barbican doing English contemporary and 20th century
music). He brought the orchestra along with firm tempi and sensible
phrasing. While everything sounded clear from where I was sitting,
friends located higher up in the auditorium felt the orchestra at times
overwhelmed the soloists.


The set design seem subdue at the beginning of Act 1 - and when the light shone on the priests (in pleated gold skirts) the full Technicolor stage design was revealed. I wonder whether Zandra Rhodes took some design cues from Tricia Guild - with bold colours and strong abstract / organic patterns. Everything worked surprisingly well - so no doubt the audiences of the co-producing houses (Houston, Norweginal national and San Francisco Opera) will also enjoy.


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