About Superconductor

Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

DVD Review: Up the Blue Nile

Robert Wilson's Aida comes to DVD.
by Paul Pelkonen.
Mark Doss as Amonasro and Norma Fantini in Act III of Aida. Photo © 2007 Opus Arte
Sometimes impulse purchases have wonderful results. In this case, my curiosity about Robert Wilson's conception for "Aida"--and how the director, known for his stylized gestures and near-empty stage sets would approach this most crowded of Verdi operas. Would Wilson's near-uniform style of acting and directing--stylized hand movements, kabuki-like makeup and ultra-slow stage movement--mesh at all with the red-blooded world of Verdi's mythical "Egyptian business"?

The answer is, yes they do--sorta. Wilson keeps things simple in this visual presentation, using just enough in the way of visual reminders to tell the viewer that they are, in fact, in Egypt. His Egypt, with deep indigos, blues and blacks substituting for the usual desert colors. The three pyramids at Giza are picked out as chrome frameworks that suggest visual depth.

The Nile is a blue stripe across the all-black stage. And the Egyptians move like tomb paintings come to life--the clear inspiration for Wilson's hand-gestures and stylized movements. It is refreshing, for me anyway, to subtract the usual sandstone clutter and King Tut bling that is usually found in this opera.

The fact that there is less to look at highlights the singers, who are pretty good--not great. Norma Fantini's Aida is the best of the lot: elegant and regal, capturing much subtlety with her eyes and facial movements, especially when she is out of Amneris' line of sight. Her two big arias are beautifully rendered.

Ildiko Komlosi is ice-cold and regal in this part--no wonder Radames finds her tough to love. The facade cracks in the big Act IV scena. Mark Doss is an excellent, passionate Amonasro--he recalls a young Simon Estes. Only tenor Marco Berti seems out of place--but as Radames is essentially a passive character this doesn't necessarily kill the evening.

Kazushi Ono takes the brisk, lucid approach to conducting this score, managing the tricky choral ensembles and tempii with skill and a steady Verdian beat, building up to the occasional explosive "thump" on the bass drum.

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

My photo

Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.