Monday, July 30, 2012


Opera Australia
Sydney Opera House
17th July 2012.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Photo: Branco Gaica

Revisiting this production, with the present cast, one is struck by how well Graeme Murphy’s vision serves Verdi’s masterpiece.  “Aida” has always been about spectacle, particularly Radames’ triumphant return having routed the Ethiopian army.  But in this production Murphy has cleverly focussed  on the triangular relationship at the centre of the opera,  between the Egyptian army captain,  Radames, the princess of Egypt, Amneris, and her handmaiden, Aida, with whom Radames is in love.
Not that this production is short on spectacle.  Interpreting Murphy’s concept, Roger Kirk has designed a series of cardboard cut-out, two dimensional sets which echo the triangular motif of both of the relationship and Egypt’s iconic pyramids. Enhanced by Damien Cooper’ s extraordinary lighting, the ever-changing Egyptian motif projections of  The Brothers Gruchy, Kirk has also included a series of travelators,  what seems like hundreds  of lavish gold, black and white costumes for the huge cast, and even a pool of water to create a constantly moving spectacle which continually dazzles and delights the eye.

But what makes this production so truly memorable is the way it also engages the mind, with Murphy's masterful harnessing of the mesmerising spectacle to focus on the very real human emotions driving the three protagonists in this lavish, sensuous environment.

Latonia Moore (Aida)
Photo: Branco Gaica

Latonia Moore is quite simply superb as the Ethiopian princess, Aida. Though surprisingly diminutive in size she brings such a warm presence and inner resolve to the role that the audience is left in no doubt as to her royal heritage. Moore’s rich soprano voice captivates as it soars over the chorus and orchestra and especially when she reveals a thrilling lustre in the more intimate moments. Hers is a performance to cherish.

Latonia Moore (Aida) 
Rosario La Spina (Radames)
Photo: Branco Gaica
                                                                                             In fine voice early in the performance, though displaying some tiredness in the later scenes, Rosario La Spina is a none-the-less a commanding Radames. The costumes suit his impressive physical presence and even though his acting ability is not his strength, the role of Radames is one where the singer simply has to stand and deliver, and he delivered in spades as a convincing all-conquering hero.


Miljanic Nikolic (Amneris)
Photo: Branco Giaca
No problems in the acting department for statuesque Milijanic Nikolic, who not only looks drop-dead gorgeous but certainly knows how to make the most of her stunning costumes. As Amneris, princess of Egypt, Nikolic exudes authority, and uses her lovely voice and admirable stage presence to deliver a captivating portrait of a woman totally in control of her destiny.

Warwick Fyfe (Amanasro)
Latona Moore (Aida)
Photo: Branco Gaica
Unrecognisable in swarthy make-up and afro, Warwick Fyfe gives a fine performance as Aida’s father Amonasro, while Jud Arthur as the King of Egypt, and Andrew Brunsden as a Messenger also impress in smaller roles. 

But of course it wouldn’t be Verdi without the chorus, and in this production the choral scenes are thrilling with the chorus looking and sounding magnificent, as does the excellent orchestra under Arvo Volmer.

"Aida" continues at the Sydney Opera House until October 13th 2012. From September 14 Jacqueline Mabardi will play Aida.