From the opening
scene of Manitoba Opera’s lavish production of Verdi’s beloved four-act
opera, we knew the ill-fated Ethiopian title princess (disguised as a slave)
Canadian soprano Michele Capalbo is the embodiment of the long-suffering
Aida, in love with Radames, captain of the guard. In dramatic stance, she sang
of her contradictory loves for her father, the Ethiopian king, her country and
Radames. We could feel her heartbreak through the passion of her lithe singing
in “Ritorna vincitor”, every note crafted to shimmering perfection.
Capalbo’s ability to make the softest pianissimo note build and swell into a
booming fortissimo is nothing short of extraordinary. (And she makes it seem
Aida’s love interest, Radames, played by Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila
returns her affection, proclaiming his love eloquently in Celeste Aida, forma
divina, sustaining the ultimate B-flat with impressive assurance. Davila’s
robust voice is versatile, enabling him to exude the confidence of the
conquering hero, yet also portray the sweet lover to the hilt. Only a slight
crack in his voice as he reached for the upper register in “Pur ti riveggio,
mia dolce” Aida signalled some fatigue.
Here’s where things got complicated. Aida’s employer, Amneris (Italian
mezzo soprano Tiziana Carraro) daughter of the King of Egypt, also loves
Radames. Amneris is determined to marry Radames, but suspects that Aida is her
Carraro has a true presence onstage, with her sultry walk and strong
features. Her velvety, somewhat throaty vocal quality aptly conveyed her
jealous doubts. One distracting tendency, however, limited her ability to
engage the audience. As she sang, she cast her eyes downward, only looking up
when she stopped singing. She never looked out beseechingly for empathy; rarely
looked at her singing partners, even when declaring love to Radames. This
denied any real chemistry between characters.
David Watson sang the role of the King of Egypt with his customary
reliability and wonderful clear diction. Tenor Terence Mierau took his brief
role of messenger to heart, giving it an impassioned performance and it’s
always a pleasure to hear the fine, pure voice of Winnipeg soprano Lara
Ciekiewicz, resplendent here as the High Priestess.
All eyes were drawn to bass Phillip Ens as Ramfis, High Priest of Egypt in
his gold-encrusted robe. He brought the requisite grandeur and authority to the
role, his bold delivery and rumbling voice almost shaking the ground.
We didn’t see baritone Gregory Dahl (Amonsaro, King of Ethiopia/Aida’s
father) until late in the opera, but his warm, powerful voice and commanding
presence were worth the wait.
Of special note was the superbly balanced ensemble work — every individual
voice distinguishable. And the tomb scene was unforgettably touching, with
Capalbo and Davila pulling on the audiences’ heartstrings as they sang their
final and most desperate final words.
Mounting this work boasting over 100 performers onstage was an awe-inspiring
accomplishment for director Brian Deedrick and stage manager Robert Pel.
As an entertainment piece, this presentation has it all — ornate, gilded
sets, Egyptian friezes and a gigantic sphinx-like head designed by Roberto
Oswald, lavish costuming from Edmonton Opera, and lighting by Scott Henderson
that subtly assisted us to predict the action as it shifted with the mood.
The women’s chorus in the boudoir scene sang with flowing youthfulness,
while the men were all pomp and power. Athletic dancers, several from the Royal
Winnipeg Ballet Aspirant Program leapt across the stage wielding knives and
swords. And the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in the pit was in good hands with
conductor Tyrone Paterson, with just a few discrepancies in tempo between
singers and orchestra. Bravo to the brass section for its authentically
triumphant, military majesty.
This was an impressive production of mammoth proportions superbly crafted in
image_description=Aida [Graphic by Opera Manitoba]
product_title=Aida, Manitoba Opera
product_by=A review by Gwenda Nemerofsky
product_id=Above graphic by Opera Manitoba