El Mercurio
Juan Antonio Muñoz H.

Pappano’s extraordinary “Aida”: Radames, Radames, Radames !
Leading the choir and orchestra of l’Accademia Nazionale Santa Cecilia, which he conducts since 2005, Antonio Pappano creates a sound space without frontiers where voices can live in intimacy and also in midst of the masses (few operas have as many “asides” as this one), thus accepting the difficult mixture proposed by the score which is so hard to balance. His conduction enthralls us with the colorful encounters, the haziness, the internal vibration and constant unrest of the atmosphere. If the scene at the Temple of Vulcan —extremely well accomplished— puts all this together in the contrasting levels of heroism and prayers, the preludes to Acts I and III lead us to an iridescent musical environment that takes us through undulating roads towards sensuality, mysticism and human passions that here come into play, both frantic and subterranean. The building constructed by Pappano has an architecture full of details that suddenly converge on a hall of amplified sound.

Pappano also sustains the implicit theater of voices, core of this artistic force that is opera. Anja Harteros is not the spinto soprano one has in mind for Aida, on account of a somewhat narrow middle, but her Ethiopian princess is perfectly well designed. Her careful song joins the versatility of her accents, through which she manages to capture the confusion of the character, her anguish, her haughtiness. She outlines a fearful Aida, a contradictory lover who betrays, at times treacherous, at times angelical. Formidable rival in the plot and also in the vocal and scenic proficiency, Amneris is the opulent and vigorous mezzo Ekaterina Semenshuck, with low tones that are a public menace with lewd emphasis and who knows how to make the transition from the anger of the working class to the impotence of one who cannot make herself loved. Baritone Ludovic Tézier is a fine singer incapable of attempting against music, and therefore his Amonasro never shouts; his fierceness is never histrionic. He is successful even when he transfers ambiguity to this loving father who is, above all, an uncompromising and inflexible king. Bass Erwin Schrott isn’t Nicolai Ghiaurov or Matti Salminen, but serves with authority as Ramfis. One must pay attention to the Sacerdotessa played by Eleonora Buratto, whose current repertoire includes Adina (L’Elisir d’Amore) and Micaela (“Carmen”), but perhaps may someday sing the main role of this opera ( a truly fledgling spinto?).

In the vocal level, the greatest success of this version is the Radames of Jonas Kaufmann, dramatic and lyrical alike, more of a lover than a hero, himself controversial. The great German tenor knows how to reconcile ardor and refinement, and —artist of a superior level— manages to instill into the optimism of his character worrying and dark forebodings. His “Celeste Aida” is anthological due to the impalpable abandonment of his singing and the B flat dreamt of by Verdi, in mezza voce and morendo, conveniently avoided by most tenors. His whole performance —beyond the depth of his low tones and the insolence of his high tones— is a fabric of details and inflections, such as the diminuendo introduced in “il ciel de’ nostri amori come scordar potrem?”, or that sweet half-voice with which he travels over “O terra addio” with Harteros.

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