Date: 17 July 2012
Venue: Sydney Opera House
Director: Graeme Murphy
I was, again, invited by my colleague whom we shall call “A” to a night at the opera last night. Opera Australia’s Aida was on. I believe tickets are in the region of $100 – $300. Enough with the details.
Aida is an Ethiopian princess in the servitude of the Pharaoh’s daughter. She loves Rademes, an egyptian general who leads the Egyptian armies against the Ethiopian army. Rademes loves her. The pharaoh’s daughter love’s Ramones. And so on, you can probably guess what happens.
As with all opera they sing their words. These were sung in Italian, better than singing in English, but always slightly unnerving, still.
The production was grand and lavish, liberal lashings of gold and silver with clever use of the opera projectors to really sell the Egyptian theme of the day. Indeed, the chorus was made up of over 50 people with numerous costume changes from courtier, to soldier, to slave. There were professional ballet dancers for the dancing sections which were probably the best part. The dancing made up for the cardboard set, this has got to do with finances, the limitations of the drama theatre of the opera house, or the Australian identification with practicality above all. In any case, the quality of some of the cardboard was questionable, and suspension of disbelief very valuable; at times I felt like I was at a school production. Further I could not stand the loose plastic film on the moat, but I was sitting in an inconvenient seat where inconvenience begets nagging. My final nag therefore was that the chorus thought they could hide amongst each other, and they put in weak dramatic performances.
The singing performances were polished. The soprano (Aida) was best, clear and powerful, her voice like forceful thrusts of the sabre. The weakest was the mezzo-soprano, though she had the lower range she had some difficulty overcoming the accompaniment. However, if it is of any consolation, she was beautiful, as an Egyptian princess should be. The baritone and Tenor earn a pass from me.
At the beginning of the third act a ballet dancer swims along the Nile, she is partly nude, you can see her breasts. I thought you would like to know that. You could see them for the full 3 minutes she was dancing. They were small, but well tensed – as could be expected of a lithe dancer. It didn’t distract from the cardboard palm tree with bananas, but good effort Mr. Murphy.
One could go on about the tiny flaws in the production like Styrofoam angels wings and plastic capes but we can just put that down to the age and place we live in. The important thing is the scale and intent of the production was grand, and to a fair degree this was achieved. When the chorus launched into “Glory to Egypt” I certainly did feel something, like this was as good as it was going to get, and it was. But it was good enough. The rest of the opera was Verdi wrapping wrapping wrapping it up by making star crossed lovers do their thing, in another 1.2 hours plus 20 minute interval. You could almost hear the tedium in the voices. Oh how I bemoan the need for closure sometimes! But surviving is its own achievement.
On a closing note, my friend A sat next to Jonathan Biggins of Travesties fame and neglected to even say hi to the dear gentleman and his daughter.
And to the two pretty ladies in row C near the left a most warm hello and if we ever do meet again, I shall let you know.