Magazine article The Spectator

Verdi without the Trappings

Magazine article The Spectator

Verdi without the Trappings

Article excerpt


Royal Opera House, in rep until 2 April

Dialogues des Carmélites

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Scene: the Royal Opera House, last Friday, 10.35 p. m. In the last act of Aida, Amneris, in the formidable person of Olga Borodina, has just concluded her magnificent denunciation of priests: 'Cruel monsters!

You will always be thirsty for blood!' and the final ten minutes remain, the exquisite scene in which the hero and heroine suffocate while singing their farewell to life.

Sitting in the stalls, I know just how Amneris feels, and my silent imprecations are directed to the Powers That Be who decree that operas should end close to 11 p. m. I realise this isn't the first time I have complained about this, but since all other reviewers apparently live in London I feel the need to voice the anxiety of those of us who have to get to a train station and catch a last or late (and so slow) train.

So I had to sneak out and miss that wonderful scene, and a good job I did: thanks to almost every road in the vicinity of Covent Garden being closed, my taxi - no point on a Friday night even trying to get into one of the jammed Tube stations - had to take an incredibly circuitous route to get to King's Cross. And even if I had risked staying to the end, I'd have been in such an acutely tense state that I wouldn't have got anything out of it. When I think of all those moving death scenes I have sat through there, wishing he or she would hurry up and pass away . . . I know I'm shining a torch into the void, but I need to explain why I'm not able to say how Roberto Alagna and Liudmyla Monastyrska passed their final and most arduous test.

I realised, first with shame and then alarm, as I arrived for this first revival of David McVicar's production, premiered last April, that I could hardly remember anything about it. Shortly after the opera began, I knew why: there is nothing to remember.

McVicar dispenses with the normal Aida trappings and puts nothing in their place. In the Triumph Scene there are some inverted bloody corpses hanging over the crowd, costumes suggest various times and places, there is very little scenery, which doesn't mean there aren't prolonged pauses between acts, and there is certainly no atmosphere.

The cast are left to fend for themselves, with the obvious result. Only Roberto Alagna, a natural onstage, and Olga Borodina, both just past their vocal peak but still magnificent presences, make anything of their roles. Monastyrska, the replacement Aida, has a rather impressive voice, but it would be good to be able to tell which language she is singing in, and she does little more than sail slowly round the stage, preserving her dignity under taxing circumstances. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.