28 November 2016

Aida at Richmond Theatre was greatly entertaining

Somehow in many years of opera going I had only ever seen Aida once before and that was eight years ago and so when it came touring to Richmond Theatre is was an easy decision to make to go and see it, despite this coming at the end of a busy week that included three other visits to theatres, a formal annual dinner and a night out on the beer and curry with friends. On the night it was almost tempting to stay at home and rest but I made the effort to go and was well rewarded for doing so.

I was late booking because of the other commitments that week and that meant that I could take advantage of a ticket offer which landed me Dress Circle  Row A  Seat  1 for £18.75. Row A is my favourite place but the seats at each end (1 and 26) have a handrail that obscures the view slightly. Luckily with Aidi the action was very much front and centre so that did not matter.

This was a touring version of the opera and the producers obviously felt that it needed beefing up a little for audiences more used to musicals and family-friendy plays. This came in the form of some extras just on stage to add a touch of glamour, a group of young cute dancers and a circus artist swinging balls of fire during the one tune everybody knows, the Grand March. I found all of that slightly distracting, but only slightly.



I was pleased to see that there was a live orchestra and quite a good sized one too. I was also pleased to see that the singers were not using microphones, nor should they being decent singers. With a full orchestra to be heard over the singers had to have good powerful operatic voices and most did, only Amneris (the Egyptian princes) struggled a little at times but most of her pieces were to quieter sections of music so, again, no real problem. The two stars of the show, Aida and her lover Radam├Ęs, did most of the singing and did it very well.

The plot was unknown to me. I was expecting something very operatic and I got that. Aida, a captured Ethiopian slave, was in love with an Egyptian guard who lover her back, He was also loved by the Egyptian princess. Then to make matters even more interesting he led the Egyptian troops in a battle against the Ethiopians were Aida's brothers were killed and her father was captured. Cue some heavily divided loyalties. It was clear not going to end well and the only real question was how many would die and how. The final death scene was a surprising twist and it all ended conclusively if not happily.

The staging was simple in construction and decorative in appearance, as was fitting for a grand opera pretending to be a family musical.

The only negative of the evening was having fooled some people into thinking that they were at a family musical they behaved like that and I head quite a few conversations during the show and several small voices asking questions. Again there was enough disturbance to be noticed but not enough to spoil the experience.

Aida entertained me greatly for the best part of three hours (including two intervals). It was a fitting end to a demanding week.

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