David's Review Corner
, July 2008
Cheryl Studer and Dennis O’Neill head the cast of this 1994 staging of Verdi’s Aida at London’s Royal Opera House. Sadly, films can be very cruel in their close-up of singers, and having had so many hours of enjoyment watching his many roles with Welsh Opera, I find that the small portly figure of O’Neill is the antithesis of our visual expectations for the warrior, Radames. It is a situation made all the worse by the ample size of Studer’s Aida. However, Elijah Moshinsky’s visually attractive staging is a big plus. Maybe there is confusion in the period of the costumes, but overall it is intended to suggests ancient Egypt, and the big crowd scene in the second act has a high degree of visual impact. The scenes between Studer and Luciana d’Intino as Amneris smoulder early on before firing off with the venom the two generate in their rivalry for the love of Radames, d’Intino being so attractive that she is a credible rival. There are solo singers on stage that should not be at the Royal Opera, and when you take out the main three - for O’Neill vocally in good form - there is thankfully not a great deal left in the opera for the others in the cast. Then we come to the orchestra, and we are on very safe ground with Edward Downes steering his forces skilfully through the score, his big Triumphal March not so overstated as to dwarf the rest of Verdi’s score. Equally, I must praise the full-voiced chorus and the dancers, particularly the daring exploits in the fight scenes choreographed by William Hobbs. Originally for BBC Television, it is excellently directed by Brian Large who has that ability to mix close ups and distant shots in exactly the right proportions. Enjoyable, if not an earth shattering release.