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Aida at Masada
Aida at Masada
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Aida at Masada

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  • 1. Page 1 of 2Opera on a Very Grand Scale — Verdis Aida at RECENT ENTRIESMasada Jerusalems Season of Culture: An innovative approach spanning theBy Dr. Irving Spitz on June 27, 2011 12:33 PM | Comments | worlds of music, dance, poetry andThe main operatic extravaganza of the highly successful Masada-Dead Sea Opera Festival organized by the philosophyIsrael Opera was the performance of Verdi’s Aida. This took place in a specially constructed venue at the This year saw the inauguration of the firstfoot of the hallowed mountain fortress of Masada which is in the Judean Desert adjacent to the Dead Sea. Jerusalem Season of Culture. One of the highly acclaimed events of this…Although there is a tiny landing strip for small planes, Masada is basically only accessible by road. It issituated over 150 km from the Israel Opera’s home base in Tel Aviv. Not unexpectedly, this enterprise By Dr. Irving Spitzrepresented a tremendous logistical undertaking.Thousands of tons of equipment both locally and from abroad were transported by 120 trucks overland. The Music in Jerusalem: The ancientcomplex lighting involved 10 kilometers of electrical cables. There were facilities for some 230 buses to Sultans Pool put to glorious use.transport eager listeners to and from every performance. Over 2500 people were involved in the preparation of Nowadays many outdoor cultural events inthis production. A total of 45,000 opera fans attended the six performances, each fully sold out. Some 10 Jerusalem take place in the Sultan Pool. Inpercent were foreigners who came especially to Israel to see the opera. biblical times, this area was known…This Aida represented a co-production with Les Choregies dOrange, France, and will be staged later this year By Dr. Irving Spitzin Orange’s Roman Theater. This was a happening on a gigantic scale. French designer Emmanuelle Favre’smost attractive sets included a massive sphinx statue center stage. Soldiers, officials, priests, dancers and others The Israel Festival, 2011emerged from a ceremonial opening door in the statue. The sides of the huge stage were flanked with smaller Fifty years old and still going strong! Gil Shohat,sphinxes, two on each side. An obelisk appeared in the triumphant scene of Act 2. In the Nile scene, half the the talented young pianist, conductor, composerstage was shimmering in lights to reflect flowing water. This staging was both dramatic and effective but did and lecturer, indeed a musical polymath,…not detract from the spectacular and unique locale with Masada in the background. By Dr. Irving SpitzIsraeli light designer Avi Yona Bueno also utilized this backdrop most effectively and at appropriate moments,the mountain was lit up. Indeed, the lighting effects were particularly brilliant and dramatic. As in last year’sproduction of Nabucco, they were the high point of this glitzy production and Avi Yona Bueno was the realstar. Subtitles were clearly displayed on five screens in Hebrew and English and were visible to all. For thosenot acquainted with the details of the plot, the essential details were also displayed on these screens.Israeli citizens from the periphery of the country were invited to the final dress rehearsal. Making operaavailable to those unaccustomed to this art form and who could never afford it represents a nice gesture. Thepress was also invited to this specific performance. This has drawbacks since it is unfair to criticize a productionwhile still in rehearsal. The scene in Act 2 with the return of the victorious Egyptian army parading theirEthiopian captors is the dramatic high point in this opera. At the dress rehearsal, the dancers from the Israelitown of Arad and the Bedouin town of Rahat, as well as the soldiers and captives were not coordinated and thechoreographic details had not been well worked out. The dancers were requested to remain behind after theperformance for further practice. This clearly paid off and several people told me that this scene wassignificantly improved by opening night.At the beginning of the Nile scene in Act 3, Aida was transported to her clandestine meeting with Radames onthe back of a camel. Other camels could be seen in the distant background. Camels are appropriate in the desertand could logically be part of the scene with the victorious Egyptian army. Indeed, animals including horses andon rare occasions, elephants, are often part and parcel of it. In this production, the camels seemed a little out ofplace and introduced an element of kitsch. This can also be said of the surprise fireworks at the end of thetriumphant scene, which also did not add much to the performance.The acoustical amplification of the voices was remarkable considering that the venue is unprotected from thewind. However the engineers have yet to solve the issue of sound projection of the orchestra and choir. Thesound was often muffled and distorted especially when there were gusts of wind.Most impressive of the principal singers was the Amneris of American mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti. Shegave a riveting and dramatic portrayal and stole the show. American soprano, Kristine Lewiss Aida started alittle tentatively and her voice was a little harsh in Ritorna vincitor (Return a conqueror). Italian tenor Marco
  • 2. Page 2 of 2Berti’s Radames was adequate and he managed to pull off the treacherous high B flat in his formidable openingaria, Celeste Aida (Heavenly Aida). The roles of the Ethiopian Amonasro and the high priest were sungcompetently and effectively by Italian baritone Alberto Gazale and Georgian bass Paata Burchuladzerespectively. Both acquitted themselves admirably. Israeli conductor Daniel Oren held the Israel OperaOrchestra from Rishon LeZion in precise control with his sweeping gestures.It appears that the Israel Opera at Masada is becoming an annual event and a DVD of the performance will bereleased shortly. Carmen is scheduled next year. With almost 5,000 foreign visitors attending, there is no doubtthat the current Aida and last year’s Nabucco have put the Israel Opera firmly on the international operaticfirmament. It has cemented the status of this relatively new company, directed by the charismatic HannaMunitz, as a force to be reckoned with.Figure. Staging of Verdi’s Opera Aida at Masada (photo credit IS). Education Update, Inc. All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2010.

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