The Met’s HD series presented Aida for the second time on Saturday December 15, 2012. The same production with a different cast was telecast on October 24, 2009.

This go around was notable for the first appearance of the Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska on a Met broadcast. Ms Monastyrska made her debut as Aida last month. She has a spinto/dramatic soprano that is under complete control. When she goes loud her voice seems effortlessly produced and appears to have as much in reserve as is released. She also can float pianissimi in alt with full vocal support. This is a major talent. Verdi sopranos are a rare breed. She realized both ‘Ritorna vincitor’ and ‘O patria mia’ with power and finesse. There are no breaks in her register as she goes from loud to soft or low to high. At full volume her sound is steely rather than lush. I don’t mean this as a negative. This was the best Aida I’ve heard since Leontyne Price. The whole Verdi canon of heavy soprano Verdi roles is hers for the taking.Monastyrska

Olga Borodin was Amneris. She has a rich and beautiful mezzo that is right for the role. She seems to be worried about her high notes, however. The high A at the end of the Judgement Scene was just touched and then released. She has done this throughout this run. It’s a disappointing end to an otherwise powerful reading of Amneris’ great scene.

Radamès is a stretch for Roberto Alagna. At this point in his career he has to push his voice hard to get through this spinto role. ‘Celesta Aida’ was stolidly sung until final high note. Alagna opted for the Toscanini ending as he did on the broadcast of Aida in 2007. Toscanini, supposedly with Verdi’s blessing, has the tenor sing the high B-flat full voice and then softly repeat the concluding phrase an octave lower. Alagna sang the high note falsetto and then went an octave lower for another soft phrase. This defeats the whole purpose of this ending; ie soft – soft rather than loud – soft. Alagna did it the right way five years ago, but seems too insecure to repeat the practice now. His vocal limitations were obvious in the opera’s final scene when Monastyrska’s floated high notes were paired with his throaty attempts at piano singing. He has said that he plans to sing Otello in France next year. He didn’t say if it was Rossini’s or Verdi’s Otello, but I’m sure he meant the latter. Gargling with lye wouldn’t be more damaging to his voice than would Otello.

Georgian baritone George Gagnidze was Amonasro. His approach to acting is of the role your eyes and make funny faces school; but he has a fine dark voice which fully conveyed the captive Ethiopian king’s anger and then paternal tenderness. Stefan Kocán was a little under powered as Ramfis.

Fabio Luisi, who’s conducting so much at the Met that he must think New York a right to work state, was in full control of the soloists, chorus, supers, animals, and lost tourists who filled the Met’s vast stage. Sonja Frisell’s 24 year old production still looks grand which is what a staging of this grandest of operas should look like. Beige is the dominant motif while traffic control is the dominant requisite.

In summary, Aida is always worth a hearing especially when you have as gifted an interpreter of the title role has the Met had today in Ms Monastyrska. After more than 1100 performances at the Met Verdi’s both spectacular and intimate masterpiece is still compelling.

 

 

 

Metropolitan Opera House
December 15, 2012 HD Transmission/Simulcast

AIDA
Giuseppe Verdi–Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida………………..Liudmyla Monastyrska
Radamès……………..Roberto Alagna
Amneris……………..Olga Borodina
Amonasro…………….George Gagnidze
Ramfis………………Stefan Kocán
King………………..Miklós Sebestyèn
Messenger……………Hugo Vera
Priestess……………Jennifer Check
Dance……………….Laura Otto *
Dance……………….Scott Weber

*Laura Otto made her debut as Laura Feig

Conductor……………Fabio Luisi

Production…………..Sonja Frisell
Set designer…………Gianni Quaranta
Costume designer……..Dada Saligeri
Lighting designer…….Gil Wechsler
Choreographer………..Alexei Ratmansky
Stage Director……….Stephen Pickover