If it were at all possible to add more horsepower and octane to Verdi’s tour d’force Aida, Opera Australia’s rendition now playing at the Sydney Opera House has found a way. Director Davide Livermore and Conductor Lorenzo Passerini have risen to the challenge of supercharging one of history’s most-loved and oft-performed operas.
While traditionalists may lament the lack of detailed Egyptian sets, elephants, camels, peacocks etc, the ingenious use of enormous mobile screens and projected images adds to the interpretation and reverberation of this classic tale. Not only are the special effects able to recreate the temples of Egypt and moonlight over the Nile, but they also emote strong feelings such as the dread of war and the flames of jealousy. Even the panther-like personality of Princess Amneris is captured in her own recurring motif.
Having said that, the pure and powerful voices of the three lead roles were not overshadowed by their surroundings. Stefano La Colla’s Redamés was equal to the task of retorting and refraining with Leah Crocetto’s far-ranging Aida and Elena Gabouri’s resonant Amneris. The supporting cast was not to be outdone, with basses’ Pharoah (Gennadi Dubinsky) and High Priest Ramfis (Daniel Sumegi) registers almost below the limits of human hearing. Michael Honeymoon’s Amonasro compellingly pleaded for the survival of his Ethiopian kingdom. The chorus was thunderous while the dancers were lythe and acrobatic. The audience’s senses were flooded with indecision as to where to focus next.
The costumes of the chorus and supporting roles were stunning – reminiscent of King Tut meets Mad Max. One disappointment was the attire of the leads, which were classically operatic but out of character with all else on the stage. Especially so were the Ethiopians, who looked like modern homeless people – not a feather or loin-cloth to be seen.
The final scene of Amneris blessing peace while descending on a pyramidal cover-stone over the lovers’ tomb is an inspired and moving portrayal.
If you have never experienced the passion of Aida or are a seasoned aficionado, get along to the SOH for some VARRROOOM!
– Jeffrey Tripp
Aida is showing at Sydney Opera House until 13 August.
Purchase tickets now. The venue is accessible.