Seattle Opera presents a spectacular “Aida”

05.07.18
John Fiore, Brian Jagde
Seattle Times

“Aida” may well be the grandest of the grand operas, but it needs inspired staging and exceptional voices in order to make Verdi’s masterpiece shine.

Seattle Opera’s current “Aida” does just that. Co-produced with San Francisco, Washington National and Minnesota Operas, this classic opera about passion, jealousy and war is visually and musically spectacular. The crucial dialogues in the opera take on a new intensity; the larger-scale scenes have an almost over-the-top energy, with lots of action and bold design elements that constantly shift and move. The exuberant finale of Act II had the stage full of dancing, singing and a hailstorm of tiny gold “glitter discs” pouring down like confetti on the cast.

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The show’s musical values were in good hands with conductor John Fiore, a native Seattleite who now has a major European career. Pacing the orchestra musicians, supporting the singers and giving Verdi’s timeless melodies their full due, Fiore extracted the maximum drama from the score with an impeccable sense of timing.

The opening-night cast on Saturday presented American soprano Leah Crocetto in the title role. Her voice is beautiful, large and vibrant, and she is a passionate actress. Unfortunately she was not shown to advantage by the dumpy outfit from designer Anita Yavich. Milijana Nikolic, as her victorious rival Amneris, was luckier, attired in a beautiful yellow gown, in which she looked appropriately stately. Her voice, however, was more variable on both extremes of its compass: the bottom notes had a heavy vibrato and little carrying power, and the top notes were strained.

In the role of Radamès, the ill-fated commander who loves Aida, Brian Jagde displayed superb power and focus, but also was able to dial down that Wagner-sized tenor a bit in his more tender scenes with Aida. Gordon Hawkins made a compelling, complex Amonasro; the stentorian Daniel Sumegi was the implacable high priest, Ramfis; and Clayton Brainerd made an effective King. Even the smaller roles shone: Eric Neuville’s lyrical Messenger, and the powerful Marcy Stonikas as the High Priestess.
 
Read the rest of the review here