Thursday, June 17, 2010

Met Live in HD: An Aida of Voices not Acting

“Fill me with rapture my love” sang Dolora Zajick as Amneris while reclining on a chaise lounge at the opening of the second act of Aida. She was singing to a lover who was absent, who was never in love with her, and who had already committed his love for someone socially unattainable: her slave Aida. Zajick’s voice was sonic rapture.

It was the voices, not the acting, that shaped this Aida, but the stiff and unimaginative postures of the five principals actually made it harder to tune into the magical singing that took place.

Carlo Guelfi was the most convincing in his role among this cast. He played Aida’s father Amonasro and was able to project the restless intensity of this part which was the highlight of the third act. Tenor Johan Botha met the challenges of singing Rademès with power and an effortless high register. Violeta Urmana was a forceful Aida who sometimes underplayed tenderness.

With all the spectacle in Aida one seldom has the opportunity to think of the lighting director, but this production was filled with haunted rich darknesses created by Gil Wechsler, and even on the flat screen of the cinema the atmosphere was impressive.

Shifting among the many possible camera angles ruined the dance sequences. The overhead angle was effective and of interest in seeing spatial relationships, but we shifted among angles and viewpoints so frequently that lines of motion in the dancing itself were almost completely destroyed.

This broadcast may hold the record for "most compressed Aida experience" at two and a half hours because it was given in theaters continuously without any intermissions. This created a breathlessness that opposed the impressions of the monumental, of the processional, and of the ceremonial that are sought in Aida.

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