17 Dec 2023 - 23 Dec 2023 (4 performances)
Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball) Verdi
Fondazione Arena di Verona
D: Marina Bianchi C: Francesco Ivan Ciampa
Starring: Luciano Ganci, Simone Piazzola, Maria José Siri, Enkeleda Kamani, Gianfranco Montresor, Romano Dal Zovo, Nicolò Donini, Salvatore Schiano di Cola, Salvatore Schiano di Cola, Daria Masiero, Anna Maria Chiuri
Teatro Filarmonico - Verona, Italy
The Arena di Verona is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and having opened the season with a somewhat controversial new production of Aida by the Spanish group La Fura dels Baus, it has now reverted to a reconstruction of the original 1913 production for the final seven performances of this opera. Aida was the first opera to be performed at the Arena in 1913 produced by the tenor Giovanni Zenatello, and has been recreated here by Gianfranco de Bosio. It is an attractive, traditional production as you would expect and makes full use of the Arena's large stage, evoking Egypt of the Old Kingdom with its statues, obelisks, sphinxes and lavish costumes. The triumphal scene literally seems to consist of a cast of thousands spread to the very heights of the Arena, including four horses and a colourful ballet choreographed by Susanna Egri. It offers spectacle where required and detailed settings for the more intimate scenes - the Nile scene is particularly evocative. However at the end of the day, irrespective of how much spectacle there is, Aida is a story about love, patriotism and human emotions making it a difficult opera to bring off dramatically with the need to juxtapose its differing elements. Part of the problem lies in the fact that it has four acts and with three intervals and scene changes within the acts it runs for over four hours - with only just over two and a quarter hours of actual music. As a result dramatic tension is lost over the long evening, which is a shame given that the musical standards here are very high. Fiorenza Cedolins both excites and frustrates as Aida. Much of her singing is a joy to listen to and she projects the character effectively, but there is a tentativeness about her performance. She seems to prefer to float the high notes at pianissimo suggesting fragility and vulnerability, rather than attack them, and while this works most of the time, there are many moments when you really just want a bit more. There needs to be an inner strength in Aida which is lost here. Marco Berti has a voice that is ideally suited to the Arena, his strong ringing tenor a perfect match for Radames. If his 'Celeste Aida' is a little tentative and cautious, he soon warms up to deliver an exciting, if somewhat unsubtle, performance. Violeta Urmana is a powerful Amneris. While she has placed an emphasis lately on singing soprano roles this mezzo part is much more suited to her voice which has a dark, lustrous hue to it. She is able to inject anger and passion into her interpretation which reaches its climax thrillingly in the final act confrontation with Radames. The remaining roles are all strongly sung: Ambrogio Maetsri is luxury casting as Amonasro, while Orlin Anastassov's Ramfis and Carlo Cigni's King both impress. Daniel Oren is an energetic conductor clearly enjoying leading the massed forces both in the pit and onstage. The brass section certainly gets their chance to shine in Aida and do so with aplomb. However, ultimately Oren's approach to the score is a little too middle-of-the-road to be dramatically effective. So, a long evening. While there was much to enjoy during the performance with some fine singing, the whole proved to be less than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless there was much to celebrate as the Arena looks back on the last 100 years, and no doubt also to an illustrious future. One wonders if the La Fura dels Baus production of Aida will be revived in 2113?