Just before the easter weekend I had the opportunity to attend Verdi's
Aida in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had to travel 500km to get there,
although, admittedly, that was not the only reason I went there.
The performance was by a group called Opera Africa.
I walked out of there with mixed feelings:
Good: The Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra was magnificent. Most of the
soloists' voices were good. The choir was good although too thin in
Bad: (In what follows, my starting point is that even in opera there
should be enough realism to entrance me. I admit that some would differ
from me). The physical appearance of some of the soloists was such that
for me the opera came close to comedy or parody. (But, I guess, this
IS a director's problem in opera. They can't select soloists in the
same way movie directors would select their lead players. The Anna
Moffos, the when-he-was-skinny Pavarottis, the Kathrin Goerings are not
that numerous). The costumes were terrible and had no connection with
ancient Egypt, nor with anything else, for that matter. It simply looked
as if a sparsely equipped costume storeroom had been raided for whatever
they had. For example, in the first act, Amneris (a Spanish-looking
daughter of an African Pharao) wore horse-riding breeches, later,
ballgowns. In Act 2, the Amneris and maidens wore skimpy dress, more
embarrassing than sexy. The great march did not happen at all - while
the music was playing, an imitation 1940's movie was shown showing
Radames' exploits. The decor was sparse.
All said and done, at least there was an opportunity to go and watch an
opera, a very rare occasion in present-day South Africa.
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