Pomp and circumstantial evidence

Posted on 02 Nov 2012 at 10:15am

Dallas Opera’s ‘Aida’ is staid, but star makes it worth it

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Among the great legends of opera are the performances of Aida that have including live animals — in some instances, actual African elephants — onstage during the “Triumphal March” at the end of Act II of Aida. Is there anything that makes grand opera seem more grand than the unexpected presence of livestock? It’s the Texas Fair moved indoors.

It’s unreasonable to expect the Dallas Opera to sully its still-newish Winspear Opera House with the tactical nightmare of prancing pachyderms; you can’t fault it for that. But you can fault it for not at least trying to wow us with some sort of pageantry. This is, after all, Verdi’s best loved (if not best) work, one where even the slave girl Aida is actually an Ethiopian princess; there’s more royalty in this show than onstage at the Rose Room on a Saturday night.

So when director Garnett Bruce settles for risers of onlookers having nothing to look at, you feel slightly cheated. We want pomp, not pom-poms. (The Act 1 backdrop with expressionless, two-dimensional line-drawings of the Great Pyramids only magnifies the artifice. Is this Luxor or the Luxor Hotel and Casino? Heck, even Vegas does authenticity better.)

Then again, who needs visual stimulation with you have something better: Aural ecstacy, courtesy of soprano Latonia Moore as Aida. Even after tenor Antonello Palombi’s stirring rendition of “Celeste Aida,” once more steps out, the first note from her voice declares the presence of major talent in the opera world. She simply dominates the show musically, demonstrating both power and dexterity. Whether soulfully alone, in a duet with Palombi or powerhouse baritone Lester Lynch as (as her father) or in the stunning counterpunctual multi-voice pieces, Moore stands out.

Nadia Krasteva, as the spurned Amneris, pales by comparison. Her voice isn’t as strong, and her performance lacks a sense of royal treachery. She relies on continuous adolescent petulance more than genuine betrayal — Mean Girls with asps.

Ah, well. The show’s not called Amneris. And once you experience Moore’s exquisite rendition, you’ll understand why.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Aida at the Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. Performances on Nov. 3, 9 and 11.

Presented by Dallas Opera, which is offering Dallas Voice readers a 25 percent discount on all full season (three-show) packages, starting at $56. To redeem, visit DallasOpera.org and use promo code Sub25.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 2, 2012.

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