Vienna Staatsoper Aida Disappoints

AustriaAustriaVerdi: Aida, Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra and Chorus, Dan Ettinger (conductor), Vienna Staatsoper, 12.10.2013 (JMI).

Olga Borodina
Courtesy Wiener Staatsoper

Aida: Kristin Lewis
Radames: Marcello Giordani
Amneris: Olga Borodina
Amonasro: Markus Marquardt
Ramfis: Sorin Coliban
Il Re: Janusz Monarcha
Messenger: Dimitrios Flemotomos
Priestess: Olga Bezsmertna

Production: Wiener Staatsoper
Direction: Nicolas Joel
Sets and Costumes: Carlo Tommasi


In my opinion, Vienna is, together with London and Berlin, one of the great music capitals of the world. Hence a visit here from time to time is almost required to enjoy the city’s music and operas. This season the debut of Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann in La Fanciulla del West, the presence of Anja Harteros in Don Carlos and the world premiere of the opera A Harlot’s Progress by the young Iain Bell were sufficient grounds for the trip. To all this could be added the opportunity to  see an opera almost unknown in the south of Europe, Der Wildschütz by Albert Lortzing. This Aida was no more than a complement, and the result was just what one can expect of a complement.

Nicolas Joel’s production has now run for 104 performances, and it is not particularly interesting. It’s a traditional production with realistic sets and Egyptian motifs, plus some surprising details such as the tomb of Radames that is placed high above and seems more like a monument raised to him. Costumes are attractive with several different gowns for the daughter of Pharaoh. Where the production fails is in the stage direction, which is in fact totally nonexistent. It’s rather like a concert performance with costumes, and the lack of life on stage led to boredom.

One of the great attractions of the Vienna Staatsoper is the musical performance from the pit, but it was not true in this case. I assume this was influenced by the fact that the Vienna Philharmonic, whose musicians feed the orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper, is busy these days with Bruckner’s 5th Symphony at the Musikverein. The conducting by Dan Ettinger had ups and downs throughout the performance, with a tendency to abuse the sound on more than one occasion.

Kristin Lewis was kind of a routine Aida. I saw her less than a year ago in the same role, and her performance was more boring this time. Her singing is superficial, and she looks for piani here and there. her voice does not have much appeal in the middle and is rather reduced in size: the low notes cannot reach the audience.

Marcello Giordani has been a leading tenor, but he was not in his best voice and his Radames held little interest. His middle range has never been outstanding, but it now sounds rather poor. He maintained his bright high notes, but he didn’t seem as safe there as in recent times. His “Celeste Aida” went unnoticed, and almost the same could be said for his duet with Aida in the Nile scene. The best part of his performance was the scene at the tomb, where he proved that he has not forgotten how to sing well.

Olga Borodina has been one of the great Verdi mezzo sopranos in recent years, and she continues to have a voice worthy of respect, well-pitched, fresh and of substantial size. Her Amneris did not come to life until the scene of Radames’ trial, where she was at her very best. However, she is not too comfortable at the top notes.

Markus Marquardt was a solid Amonasro, with enough voice and a good deal of expressiveness. Sorin Coliban offered more quantity than quality in the part of Ramfis. Janusz Monarcha was good as Pharaoh, his voice somewhat reduced in size.

The Staatsoper was fully sold out. The public did not show much enthusiasm during the performance, but there were cheers for the artists at the final bows.

José Mª. Irurzun