This Aida has garnered mixed reviews, some critics finding its open-air setting distracting and over-the-top and the performance flawed, and others, like me, finding it mostly successful. The production is quite lavish, featuring many horses, two fairly well-trained elephants, large-scale ballet sequences, colorful costuming, large colorful sets with fires lit almost everywhere to provide lighting, and camera work that intelligently captures the action on stage.
Most importantly, I can report that the singing by the principals is first-rate, and the orchestral and choral work spirited and always tasteful. Austrian conductor Ernst Märzendorfer leads the international cast here with a keen sense for Verdi's colorful drama, for his deft mixture of dynamism and pomp, for his unforgettable big choruses, and for the subtlety of his vocal and instrumental writing. Eszter Sümegi makes a fine Aida, and Kostadin Andreev a fully convincing Radames. The other members of the cast are also generally up to the demands of their roles.
The only drawback I found in this fascinating production is the sound reproduction: it has a dryness, with notes fading too fast in the open-air quarry of the St. Margarethen Festival location. Yet, the singing and instrumental playing are clear and full and should not present a problem to most listeners. I reviewed another Aida here at ClassicalNet, in the fall of 2004. It was an Opus Arte release and featured Daniela Dessì and her husband Fabio Armiliato in the leads in a production by José Antonio Gutiérrez. This one, by Robert Herzl, is the better of the two, especially from purely visual aspects.
I must admit that the brief fireworks celebration at intermission, however, is not my – and will not, I'm sure, be – your cup of tea. By the way, that thin, black line adorning every major character's forehead is apparently supposed to be some kind of paganistic marking. In reality, however, it is a microphone. Clever. Most fans of Verdi and Aida should enjoy this lavish, splendid effort. Provocative and informed notes by Robert Herzl and a synopsis of the opera are provided. Subtitles, of course are also available. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 2005, Robert Cummings