Whenever I get the chance to go to the movies, I usually opt for indie flicks or foreign films. But, every once in awhile, I enjoy a big Hollywood blockbuster. (I mean, who doesn't?) Same goes for the opera, where, after taking in the Met's production of The Death of Klinghoffer (twice), I wanted to see something a bit...bigger. As in: Verdi's Aida, which somehow I'd never managed to see before this past Wednesday evening.
One of the staples of the Met repertory, this was the 1,138th Met performance of this warhorse, which Verdi wrote in 1871 for the then-new Khedival Opera House in Cairo. Set in Ancient Egypt, the opera tells the story of a love triangle between Amneris, the Crown Princess of Egypt, her Ethiopian slave, Aida, and the military commander Radamès, who is in love with Aida. Unfortunately, Amneris is also in love with Radamès, and when the Pharaoh asks Radamès to take up arms against the Ethiopian army - well, let's just say things gets messy.
There is nothing subtle about Aida. In addition to massive choruses, numerous ballets, and a cast of what seems like thousands, the opera has six key roles, each with its own unique set of demands. Chief among those is the title character, sung here by the Ukranian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who made her Met debut in this role in 2012. Monastyrska, who performs this season at the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, and the Staatsoper Berlin, among other houses, sang with both fearsome intensity and heartrending tenderness.