Left - Milijana Nikolic as Amneris. Cover - Zara Barrett as Aida
Giuseppe Verdi’s Egyptian epic Aida was brought to life this October by Opera Queensland. Renowned as one the most spectacular operas to be seen, the Lyric theatre was brimming on Thursday night with Brisbane audiences keen to witness the spectacle.
Albeit being many of the cast stars’ role debut, the libretto was performed with all the magnificence of operatic lungs. Aida herself, sung by Zara Barrett for the first time, was graceful and captivating, embodying the fragility of the secret Ethiopian slave girl.
The costumes didn’t fail to disappoint either; Roger Kirk created a shimmering feast of golden cloaks and spangled crowns, the cast were all-dazzling in their ancient finery. And what a cast there was, at times with no less than 70 people on stage, the grandeur filled the theatre with married voices, blinding swords and plenty of cloak swishing.
The set of this production took many an adventurous turn, first of all with a sliding conveyor belt in the very front of the stage. In one scene this was used to great effect, with a series of Egyptian tableaus sliding across the downstage, much like a panel of moving hieroglyphics. Aside from that, occasionally a cast member would stand upon the moving strip while singing and it would whisk from stage left to stage right mid aria. It saved them some walking, but otherwise the use of the sliding thingy was not particularly purposeful.
The other unique element of the set was its heavy use of projections as a main feature of the show. Designed by the esteemed Gruchy brothers (Mic and Tim), the back wall received a constantly changing bombardment of busy moving colours and images. Ranging from an ethereal purple mottled wash, to a mosaic of mouths moving in unison to lip-synch ‘Guerra’. They were an unusual addition to an opera production and this reviewer found them particularly distracting, even so far as frustratingly naff. During one act there was temporarily a retro 70’s curtain print behind the Isis-esque statues. It drew attention away from the impeccable Symphony Orchestra and the purity of the voices; although it was a contemporary addition to the production, it detracted greatly from the simple beauty of the opera.
While it indeed delivered the spectacle Aida is known to be, this production of Opera Queensland was not the years’ stand out. Yes it was shiny and impressive, but while the cloak swishing was top notch, the all over aesthetic seemed overcooked, overbearing and left one wondering ‘why’?
Opera Queensland presents
by Giuseppe Vedi
Original Director Graeme Murphy
Revival Director Shane Placentino
Venue: Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Dates: 16, 21 (30 Below), 23, 26 (30 Below), 28 (sunset, 30 Below) and 30 (matinee) October, 2010
Tickets: $52.25 - $158.25 (includes booking fee)
Bookings: qtix 136 246 | www.qtix.com.au