Friday, October 8, 2010

Opera 101—Walk Like an Egyptian

This week, I enjoyed my second opera of the season. If Le Nozze di Figaro was light-hearted fun, Aida was opera with a capital O. Skipping from the opera buffa of Mozart, right over the bel canto of Rossini, to this grand opera of Verdi was quite a jump. All of a sudden—DRAMA! SPECTACLE!

Aida was not an opera I had any familiarity with at all, beyond the fact that it took place in Egypt, and somehow involved an elephant. It was definitely harder to relate to on a musical level than Mozart, with fewer standout “numbers” (you are not going to leave the theater humming, that’s for sure); however, the pageantry of the first half alone makes it a terrific introduction to the world of opera.

The Good:  The costumes were absolutely gorgeous, especially Pharaoh. The elephant was very well done and the triumphal march quite stirring. For the most part, the singing was very strong. Also, the woodwinds sounded great—as a former player of the clarinet, I always appreciate when woodwinds get a chance to shine.

The Bad:  I assume this is Verdi and this style of opera and not the performers, but the lyrics were unintelligible to me. Whereas I could follow much of the Italian in Figaro, here I totally had to rely on the supertitles. This may be why I felt the acting wasn’t as strong as in Figaro, which became especially problematic for the emotional tomb scene, where the production values could have been stronger.

Thankfully, there was no ugly. It was a fantastic night out all around. For that, I’d also like to give a shout-out to Indigo, for their fabulous food and even more fabulous policy of no corkage fees. We had a delicious meal and were able to enjoy a great wine (the Calcareous Vineyard Très Violet 2006—a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre) purchased on my trip to Paso Robles last year.


SWK said...

I love Verdi. La Traviata is my favorite. Must say I can't speak to the intelligibility issue as I can't understand enough Italian to follow it regardless. That said, it's full of memorable musical moments--the kind you can hum later on. Lovely post.

Jen Daiker said...

How fabulous!!! The Oprah is something I adore, along with plays, especially around the holidays!!!

I'm a new follower, making you happy collector of 10 :)

Sylvie said...

Thanks Jen, as a new blogger, I'm always happy to see those numbers go up!

Stasia, I do love La Traviata, which I saw ages ago in New York. I should give my recording a re-listen to see if I have the same language issues. As my current editing project is Italian, I'm always looking for new opportunities to hear it in action.

Anne said...

Dad's favorite, especially live with Maria Callas and real elephants.

Sylvie said...

Is that why I knew about the elephants? I had a vague memory of hearing about elephants live on stage, but didn't know why.