Day: October 16th, 2007

Aida at the Met

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Music

At the Met tonight for our first opera of the 2007-2008 season: Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida.

The last time I saw Aida on stage, it was not the 1871 opera, but the Tim Rice and Elton John musical based on it. In that Tony-winning Disney version, Canadian R&B singer-songwriter Deborah Cox portrayed the eponymous princess; we got our tickets as part of the 2004 Republican National Convention swag package that NL received for her duties as a California delegate.

The general outlines of the story, though, remain pretty much the same. Verdi’s opera was itself based on an outline of a story by French scholar and Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. At its crux is the love triangle between Aida, an enslaved Nubian princess, Amneris, an Egyptian princess, and Radamès, the Egyptian soldier they both love. Aida has all the elements one expects from grand opera: tragedy, love, betrayal, melodrama, conflict. And once more, The Met trotted out its traditional 1988 staging; the climactic Act II spectacle was resplendent with its moving pillars and platforms, and its procession of a cast of dozens: singers, acrobats and dancers, piles of corpses, and at least half a dozen horses.

I tried to get a surreptitious shot here, with only limited success. I had to turn off the video display on the digital camera so as not to emit that telltale glow.


We were informed by a paper insert in our programs that Sicilian-French tenor Roberto Alagna would be subbing for Marco Berti as Radamès that Tuesday night. The Times ran a review of the Met’s rotating cast of male leads this season. When Berti fell ill, Alagna stepped in as his last-minute replacement, withdrawing from his starring B.F. Pinkerton role in Monday night’s Madama Butterfly to prepare for the vocally demanding challenges of Aida — his third major role at the Met in as many weeks. (Alagna is also starring in this season’s Roméo et Juliette.)

Alagna had considered retiring the role of Radamès from his repertory after his infamous mid-performance walkout at La Scala last year. No such problems this night though; as the tenor finished the celebrated first-act “Celeste Aida” — the role’s most famous aria (and the number after which he received boos at La Scala: tough crowd!) — the Met audience responded with loud, appreciative cheers.

Below, the plaza from which French soprano Natalie Dessay‘s performance in Lucia di Lammermoor debuted on screens and in Times Square on opening night last month. Lucia’s famous third-act mad scene has made Dessay the face of this Metropolitan Opera season. Her wild-eyed visage has been printed on the cover of every Playbill I’ve seen so far.

Met Opera House

Lincoln Center fountain

First look: flickr photos from the Halloween performance of Fuerzabruta — now in its 18-week limited run at the Daryl Roth Theatre.

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