Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton

Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton

Article excerpt

Edmonton Opera opened its season Oct. 19 with Verdi's Aida, a static staging overall but elevated by a fine cast of mainly non-Canachan singers. While each was effective, some of the strongest moments came in ensemble.

Aida has become a signature role for American soprano Angela Brown, who brings both power and emotional vulnerability to the role. She conveyed the pride and defiance of the captive Ethiopian convincingly in the Act I "Ritorna vincitor" and her anguish in Act III's "Qui Radarnes verra," when she wrestles with the dilemma of loving her enemy while being loyal to her father and country In scenes with her romantic rival, Amneris (Russian mezzo Elena Bocharova), and especially with her father, Amonasro (American baritone Donnie Ray Albert), Brown displayed excellent dramatic instincts and impressive vocal color.

Bocharova didn't begin commandingly, losing the projection battle with the Edmonton Symphony, which, directed by Richard Buckley, was generally a helpful force for all the singers. At times, Bocharova sounded like a contralto with an efficient top, but when singer and orchestra found balance, she delivered impressively throughout her range.

American tenor CarlTanner's Radames tantalized. His voice does not have a bright timbre and it's neither Wagnerian nor lyric. But he has a mellowness and vocal heft that filled the hall powerfully. Most of the performances were stand-and-deliver, and Tanner delivered. Albert's Amonasro was a standout in both his key scenes. His passionate admonishment of Aida really felt like an angry father disappointed with a misguided child, and his stage presence made him every bit the aggrieved Ethiopian chieftain.

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This production boasted two excellent basses in Burak Bilgili as the high priest, Ramfis, and Mikhail Kolelishvili as the King. Both delivered with a stentorian authority that helped project their characters vividly.

EO has a relatively new chorus master in Michael Spassov, and there has been some overhaul of all the sections. In particular, both tenor and bass sections produced a more confident sound than I've heard in many EO productions over the past few years.

Roberto Oswald's set, Anibal Lapiz's costumes and David Fraser's lighting design provided an atmosphere of high seriousness. This Aida might be described as staid, but it evoked the ancient Egyptian mis-enscene smartly and without gimmickry (or livestock).The set was simple and effective, consisting of a few sets of steps with landings in front of a massive Sphinx on the back wall. Dejan Miladinovic's direction put the singers where they needed to be, and the chorus scenes were well managed. The dancers, directed by Brian Web in more modern style, spent much of their time rolling and gyrating about the floor in spurts. The effect conflicted with the overall approach to the production, although the dancers themselves were fun to watch.

The ESO's brass section distinguished itself, while oboist Lidia Khaner and bass clarinetist David Quinn made some beautiful music in their highly exposed moments in the North African sun.

E0 inaugurated its ATB (Alberta Treasury Board) Canadian Series Nov. 15 with the world premiere of Shelter, composed by New Zealand-born Torontonian Juliet Palmer to a libretto by Queen's University drama professor Julie Salverson. A co-production with Toronto-based Tapestry New Opera, which commissioned the work, the 75-minute, whimsically symbolic fable about the potentially disastrous implications of the nuclear age was led by Tapestry Artistic Director Wayne Strongman. …

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