Friday, October 23, 2009

Met Aida ready for HD prime time

A stunning revival of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida thundered onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in the performance of Wednesday, October 21st. The production will be seen live on a thousand screens in 42 countries around the world Saturday,October 24th at 1pm Eastern Time in the Met's second Live In HD transmission of the season. Met Diva Renee Fleming will host and Gary Halvorson will direct. Cameras on large booms in the Grand Terrace boxes, and in strategic locations on the main floor and in the balconies recorded every moment. A robotic camera on the lip of the stage , tracked the performers in closeup. According to a Met spokesman, the cameras were there doing 'scratch' shots as a sort of dress rehearsal for the Saturday HD cast and to gather 'cover' shots for continuity during the live transmission. There were dramatic moments both on and offstage. First, it was announced that mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina would replace an ailing Dolora Zajick in the pivotal role of Amneris.The conclusion of the third act was punctuated by the call, "is there a doctor in the house!?" For a patron who had fallen ill. Italian Maestro Daniele Gatti,returning to the Met after a decade-long absence, conducted a spirited Met opera orchestra in Verdi's lush,panoramic score.Russian ballet master Alexei Ratmansky, artist-in-residence with American Ballet Theatre and former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, made his Met debut creating new choreography for the Aida ballets with his cadre of superlative dancers. His high-stepping corsaires soared through the air with gravity defying grace,recalling the glory days of Martha Graham and Jose Limon. Production design by Sonja Frisell with sets by Gianni Quaranta, and lighting by Gil Wechsler and brilliant costumes by Dada Saligeri, displayed all of the pageantry of ancient Egypt. No effect was spared in this brilliant production. Even live horses tromped across the stage in the glorious March of the Egyptians at the conclusion of Act II. (Indeed,strains of the all-too-familiar orchestral march could be heard as patrons hummed the tune as they spilled out into the cool,midnight air at performance end and a lone saxophonist played excerpts of the opera on the train platform at the Lincoln Center stop.) South African Heldentenor Johan Botha was a commanding presence as the doomed general, Radames and Violeta Urmana,singing the role for the first time with the company, was a sultry,vividly voiced Aida. Such impassioned theatrics and searing vocals had not been realized in the title role since Leontyne Price. Bass Stefan Kocan, in his Met debut, excelled as the King, Italian baritone Carlo Guelfi was a commanding presence as Amonasro, fellow Italian, bass Roberto Scandiuzzi brought a regal splendor to the role of Ramfis. The night,however, was clearly a singular triumph for the captivating Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina. In classic Met style, she was drafted out of rehearsals for the upcoming production of La Damnation de Faust to deliver the performance of a lifetime. The story of Aida is as timeless as the Sphinx and as laden with drama and historic truth as the ancient writings found inside the Egyptian tombs. It also has as much majesty as the lofty Pyramids. Its all available at local theatres Live in HD Saturday,October 24th at noon Eastern time. For theatre locations and tickets,visit or

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