Giuseppe Raffa AIDA Berlin
Verdi was only the second violin
Mass Spectacle Aida by Giuseppe Raffa at the Deutschlandhalle by Sofia Kannenberg
Before a nine meter high Sphinx, the two lovers, Aida and Radames, desperately bid farewell to life in each other’s arms. White doves flutter through the air to then settle down before them, as a sign of peace and reconciliation. A somewhat kitschy ending to a staging that is hard to beat in pricelessness: Aida, The Opera Spectacular of Italian conductor and director Giuseppe Raffa of Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece in Four Acts, thrills the Deutschlandhalle. However, the love drama between the Ethiopian slave AIDA and the Egyptian field commander Radames, begins confusedly: The Egyptian high priest Ramphis (Nicola Ghiuselev) proclaims that the Ethiopians have invaded the delta of the Nile and now the Egyptians must move against them in war. Radames (Dennis O'Neill) tells that he would like to lead the army. Amneris (Bruna Baglioni), the daughter of the Egyptian king, appears to be in love with Radames, and so is Aida (Leona Mitchell), Amneris' slave and the daughter of the enemy, the Ethiopian King Amonasro; and all this within a few minutes.Fine for the more educated audiences, but for those who did not know the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, it was very difficult to understand the human complications narrated in this fascinating tragedy. That Aida and Radames love each other; that Amneris also loves Radames but her love is not reciprocated; that Amneris therefore is jealous of Aida and wants to force Radames to marry her. All of this falls into Raffa’s staging. The Italian director generally seems set on creating a more lavish spectacle in the first two acts, more than valuing the music. With sets swirling between individual screen images. 500 extras mass on the 1500 square meter large stage, dressed in golden and silver costumes, escorting slaves and common people and pull back from thence. In the triumphal march even two elephants, three camels and a 60-kilogram python appear. But why?A gigantic light system is placed on top of the 1000 actors on the Egyptian-style stage; the brave sounds of the Prague festival orchestra and chorus penetrate through a sophisticated sound system in every corner of the hall, all perfectly controlled. Would it not be for few perceived uncertainties, you would not think that the music was played live. That Raffa would take in the cast for his production of Aida, which has been touring the world since 1988, only first class soloist singers, is apparent only in the third and fourth act. Just Leona Mitchell, as Aida, excelled with sensibly interpreted arias: Bruna Baglioni faded however as Amneris, in favour of the cooler Grace Bumbry. Dennis O'Neill sang freely the entire evening and was a worthy partner to Leona Mitchell in the love duet.The audience thanked with standing ovations for the gigantic production in which the music often only played a second violin role.