Review: Spectacular 'Aida' boasts thrilling music, performances
Before the opera began, general director Christopher Hahn welcomed the audience while sharing the stage with two predecessors, Tito Capobianco and Mark Weinstein. They represent a lineage because Capobianco hired Weinstein, who hired Hahn.
The company's first general director, conductor Richard Karp, died in 1977, but his baton was used Saturday night by music director Antony Walker.
“Aida” is set in ancient Eqypt and is most famous for the spectacle of the “Triumphal Scene,” in which the Egyptian army returns victorious — with prisoners and spoils of war — after having beaten the Ethiopian army. It is the consequences of the conflict between imperial responsibilities and personal desires that provide the conflict within each of the three leading characters and between them,
Latonia Moore commanded the stage as “Aida,” a role she's performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He voice is lustrous and smooth on top, and has an emotional tinge even at the ends of phrases that taper quietly. Her lowest register was dry at first, but velvety long before the exquisite tomb scene.
The soprano's power was thrilling to experience, both in solos and in big scenes. She also acted extremely well. All in all, an unforgettable company debut.
Tenor Carl Tanner, also making his debut, was an uncommonly strong Radames, the Egyptian general in love with Aida but desired by Amernis, daughter of Egypt's king.
“Celeste Aida” rang out, including at the end where Verdi asked for a diminuendo culminating in a soft high B flat. Few tenors perform it Verdi's way because it's so difficult to do right at the start of the opera. But Tanner also didn't hold the note after hitting it, creating a moment of awkwardness. However, he was excellent thereafter, and showed he can sing softly very well in the tomb scene.
Elizabeth Bishop gave an excellent portrayal of Amneris, one that generated real sympathy for her situation. Her powerful mezzo had the steel for a daughter of the king, and she controlled it with mastery that was nuanced to her changing moods — stong-willed, conflicted, cunning and vulnerable.
Lester Lynch gave a great performance as Amonasro, Ethiopia's king and Aida's father. He was so commanding a presence as a prisoner of war in the Triumphal Scene it was surprising no one suspected he was no ordinary prisoner. He was also very effective in laying his guilt trip on Aida in Act 3.
Oren Gradus sang very well as Ramfis, the high priest, offering strength and dignity. Phillip Gay as the King and Jasmine Muhammad as the High Priestess were both effective.
Great singing wasn't limited to the named characters. Pittsburgh Opera Chorus was was a joy to hear — massed for the Triumphal Scene or broken up into women singing for Amneris in Act 2, and men as priests. Sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each sang as focused sections with beautiful shaped lines. Bravo.
Walker led a wonderfully dramatic performance — well-paced, colorful and beautiful together in ensemble. Delicate moments were all the more magical for being precisely defined.
He also let the orchestra and chorus rip at the right moments, which contributed to the sweep of the performance. This made Moore's ability to ride the climaxes all the more impressive.
The orchestra was outstanding, apart from one bad chord at the end of the prelude. The string section had remarkable tonal character and cohesion. Wind solos, including piccolo, were keenly drawn. The brass, and especially trumpets, have a big role in this opera, and played magnificently. Timpani and bass drum also stepped up to Walker's scale of sonority for this opera.
The Triumphal Scene featured many extra elements, including two horses ridden by members of the Allegheny Country Police Mounted Patrol, a python, a hawk, and four greyhounds with their handlers.
Former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch was the “Champion of Champions” on Saturday. He comported himself with dignity and exchanged salutes with Radames. Bob Friend, Franco Harris and Phil Bourge will take this silent role at subsequent performances.
Pittsburgh Opera's production of “Aida” will be repeated at 7 p.m. Oct. 15, 8 p.m. Oct. 18, and 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Admission is $12.75 to $179. Details: 412-281-0912 or www.pittsburghopera.org.
Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: ‘Rodelinda’ a big success for Pittsburgh Opera
- New Kids, TLC summer tour coming to Pittsburgh
- Review: Seger blends old, new hits for show at Consol Energy Center
- The classic sound of Gladys Knight and the Spinners endures
- Budway’s ‘Candor’ is a sweet parting
- Luke Bryan plans 2 shows this summer at First Niagara Pavilion
- Bob Seger an enduring ‘non-rock star’ star