Every Opera is a Love Story: Lyric wins with Aida

The architectonic forces of the world drift unwittingly as people get crushed down below. In Verdi's Aida, those forces are two nations' armies whose geopolitical maneuverings trap and [spoiler alert] entomb Aida and her lover Radames in a love triangle of doom.

Lyric Opera's current production continues this season's conservative direction: classic, sure-fire operas done in tried-and-true ways, visually striking but intellectually uncomplicated, leaving the show's success to the singers and the music.

Like a lot of operas, the action takes place in antiquity, not the typical Greco-Roman or Teutonic, rather the more exotic Egyptian variety. The grandeur of Egyptian society, primarily represented by the military and scores of priests, finds visceral transmutation in Lyric's earth-moving chorus, setting the stage, so to speak, for the intimate drama boiling beneath the surface.

Love, in opera, is ether unrequited or forbidden. Aida's love for Radames is the latter as she is enslaved to the Egyptian King's daughter, also in love with Radames.

Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida continues to be one of my favorite sopranos, imbuing every note with urgency, from the most extroverted plaintive cries to the restrained insanity of a desperate woman. While her position certainly calls for melodrama, however, she perhaps goes a bit far, losing a measure of sympathy for her plight.

Playing Radames, her lover and leader of the Egyptian army, Marcello Giordani was well matched for Radvanovsky though not nearly as subtle. Still able to reign in his clear, powerful voice, he plays a fairly stock tenor role for whose plight I have trouble giving a sh*t. His curtain call, for example, was more of a "Prego" than "Gratzie." To quote the Beatles: "When you say [he's] looking good, [he] acts as if it's understood."

Less presumptuous at the curtain was Jill Grove as Amneris, the King's daughter, acknowledging perhaps her one vocal misstep in a moment of frenzied passion. The rule of opera is this: as long as the singer's flaws are less than the character's flaws, it's a win.

Between the macro and micro moments, there are diversionary dances. Not entirely essential to the plot, the dance moments do not detract at all—in fact, the opposite. Kenneth Von Heidecke's choreography conveniently forgot 200 years of ballet tradition and makes a convincing attempt at recreating ancient Egyptian ceremonial dance.

At 3.5 hours, it felt a little long. And there was no big payoff: the fourth act continued the build of tension and then quietly buried it alive.

Reasons for going: Radvanovsky - 40%; choruses - 20%; dancers - 20%. Reasons for staying home: money - 15%; time - 5%.

Result: 80% for going.

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