Friday, December 14, 2012

Aida at the Met

I felt quite privileged on Wednesday night to go to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. I was the guest of a friend (who for his own political reasons wishes to remain unidentified), who had been given amazing Grand Tier tickets for free. We went to see Giuseppe Verdi's opera Aida, which had its premiere in Cairo on December 24, 1871. The opera was fantastic. I had seen Aida in the past on television, but this was the first time I had seen it live. Although I'm not an active opera buff, I do enjoy going when I can, and Italian operas are of course the best (yes, I'm biased). I've seen live both Tosca (my favorite libretto) and La Traviata (possibly my favorite musical score) a number of times. Aida is the story of the pseudonymous Ethiopian princess enslaved to the Egyptian princess Amneris, both of whom are in love with the Egyptian general Radamès, although he is in love only with Aida. Of course there love is doomed and there's a tragic ending. For our performance, Aida was performed by soprano Liudmyla Monasyrska, and she did a truly magnificent job. She sang beautifully, and I was entranced by two of her arias. The other performers were quite good, although none of them stood out for me as well as the soprano. The orchestra was aptly conducted by Fabio Luisi, but I found the tuba player a bit too loud at times, to the point that he overpowered the singers. The famous triumphal march scene was spectacular, however, and the ballet sequences well choreographed. I realized that the triumphal march was scored by Verdi so that it could be repeated again and again to accommodate the size of the actual parade on stage. In some performances, an entire retinue of animals including elephants and giraffes have been included, extending the musical sequence a great deal, but in this performance they kept it to a minimum. It's a shame actually because it is such beautiful music, and believe me when I tell you that you know this music and love it as well. (Here's a YouTube video of the scene as performed in the past at the Met Opera.) I did find it strange to realize afterwards that all the main singers in the performance were from former Soviet countries (Ukraine, Russia, Georgia), which I think says much about the globalism of the arts in the new millennium.

On a personal note, it was interesting to go back to the Met Opera the other night (image at right was the view from our seats!), because I had not been to that theater since my very first live opera experience...30 years ago! Zio PL had gotten free tickets, and since Zia FL couldn't go, he took me. I remember my parents driving me into the City where we met him at Lincoln Center. We saw Rigoletto from one of the tiers...and I actually sat next to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (they left during intermission). It was an amazing experience overall, but one I could hardly share with classmates the next day as they all thought it was weird that I would even want to go to an opera. In retrospect, it was definitely one of those rewarding experiences that I have cherished my whole life. I just hope it's not another 30 years before I go back there again!

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