You may all remember that last January, I began to get over my anti-opera prejudice, by attending Austin Opera’s production of Charles Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet. Based on this very positive experience Miró and I decided to return this weekend to see their production of Verdi’s Aida. Which I knew to be very famous, and the source material for the Elton John/Tim Rice musical of the same name. I have to admit that I know the John/Rice score almost by heart, but had never heard any of the Verdi until Saturday night. (But that’s because for the most part, I like music I can sing along to, and that’s just never going to be opera.)
I thought I knew the story going in, but despite the central conflict being the same, enough changes were made that I got confused. Aida is an Ethiopian princess enslaved as a handmaiden to the princess of Egypt, Amneris, but she’s in love with Radames, who is supposed to marry Amneris…it gets complicated. Because then there’s also a war and Aida’s father convinces her to help her people by forcing Radames to commit treason…and well, it’s an opera so…some people get walled up in a tomb to die. (Though they waste a lot of their precious oxygen singing about it.)
Convoluted plot aside, I found a lot of the show very moving. Particularly Karen Slack‘s power performance in the title role and her counterpart Issachah Savage as Radames. They both had a lovely depth to their voice that I really loved listening to. For a lot of the show I was hating on Amneris, played the exceptional Tuija Knihtilä, because I felt like her character is actually given more dimension in the Broadway version, but then in the last act she has an incredibly long soliloquy where she laments her mistakes and it was beautifully heartbreaking.
Also, the sets, designed by Robert Oswald, were gorgeous and just as grand as you would want for an operatic tragedy.
A couple of quibbles – please don’t have one act that is 86 min. and then 2 that are 30, there are better ways to break that up. And – if you’re going to bring your whole family to watch your daughter dance in her first opera, it’s OK to be excited when she enters. It’s not OK to then talk throughout the entire sequence, and then mention that your contacts are dry, and then snap at my friend when she asks you to be quiet. (But thank you to the wonderful house staff at the Long Center for letting us switch seats in the first intermission. We had a lovely time the rest of the night!)
The show has two more performances this Thursday at 7:30 and Sunday at 3:00 at the Long Center 701 West Riverside Drive