I have just returned home from a trip to NYC and all of its winter wonder. There was much snow and tiramisu to be had, but that’s for another post. I went to NYC to see our main Soprano Bae Sondra Radvanovsky in Aida at the Metropolitan Opera.
The performance I saw was the first of three with Sondra as Aida, these three performances being the last of the Sonja Frisell production, which premiered in 1988, before the production is officially retired. A beautiful behemoth of a production, this Aida is the epitome of grand opera. I spent the entire four hours in wide-eyed wonderment.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I tend to book my vacations around Sondra’s performance schedule. I booked this trip as an early birthday to myself and, as I am a great gift giver, I got myself a front row seat. I was so close I could have read the orchestra’s scores instead of the surtitles! This was my first time seeing Aida and I am so glad to have gotten such a good seat for this because it was an EXPERIENCE. The sets! The costumes!! The horses onstage!!! This production is everything that opera should be. Magnificent, beautiful, and intricate- all while serving the story and the music. Being in the front row, I had to try to keep my reactions to myself, but I was clutching the pearls and gasping nonstop throughout the show.
As I mentioned, I chose to see Aida for Sondra Radvanovsky and I was not disappointed in my decision. I have seen Sondra in five different operas and I am constantly amazed at how she is able to navigate different styles of music and vastly different characters so well. Her Aida was simply phenomenal. Her voice is perfect for the role, taking us from unbelievably beautiful pianissimo notes to the most gloriously large sound you’ve ever felt wash over you in your life, and she sailed through the Verdi lines with apparent ease. You have not lived until you’ve heard Sondra sing Verdi live. Another reason I really love watching Sondra perform is that she acts with nuance and intelligence. Proud and furious, submissive and heartbroken, torn yet decisive- her Aida traversed the spectrum of human emotion in just a few short hours. Also, Sondra did all of this while having two cracked ribs. Like… WHAT??? #SuperSoprano
The men of the opera were wonderful as well. Jorge De Leon sang Radames strongly, and acted the ups and downs of the character most nobly. Solomon Howard made for a hulking, intimidating presence as the king. Quinn Kelsey was an intense Amonasro and, I won’t lie, I hated him for making Aida choose between Radames and her family’s love (what a guilt trip, bringing up her dead mother) but opera will be opera, so what can I say? The man made me feel something so he did his job and he did it well. Olesya Petrova sang Amneris beautifully and sincerely. Never once did her actions seem petulant or contrived. Her Amneris seemed like a woman in love and, because it’s opera, made poor choice in the name of love. I had forgotten that Placido Domingo was conducting until he was right in front of my face so that was quite a delightful surprise.
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see Aida. The opera had never appealed to me before and I only went to see it because Sondra Radvanovsky was in it (she could be singing the phonebook and I’d pay to see it, but I digress), but I walked out of that theatre in love. Aida is a beautiful, grandiose example of everything opera can be. The conflict was intense and realistic, the deaths justified (will I ever see Sondra in an opera where she doesn’t die at the end?), and the music beyond compare. I am so grateful to have been able to see this production before its retirement, and with such a cast! The curtain call was rambunctious and enthusiastic. Sondra was showered with flowers (as she should be) and I broke my rule of only going “WOOOOOOOO!!!'“ for Kelli O’Hara. It was a joyful, beautiful moment of time and I am so glad to have witnessed it.
After the show, I went backstage to see Sondra and, of course, she was a delight. Such a kind and funny lady behind all of that hard work and ability. A queen (or princess, in this opera). Follow her on Twitter, instagram, or around opera house worldwide!