[Met Performance] CID:198340
Aida {704} Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas: 05/19/1964.

(Review)


Dallas, Texas
May 19, 1964


AIDA {704}
Giuseppe Verdi--Antonio Ghislanzoni

Aida....................Leontyne Price
Radamčs.................Sándor Kónya
Amneris.................Mignon Dunn
Amonasro................Cornell MacNeil
Ramfis..................Jerome Hines
King....................John Macurdy
Messenger...............Robert Nagy
Priestess...............Marcia Baldwin
Dance...................Edith Jerell
Dance...................Harry Jones
Dance...................Donald Mahler
Dance...................Naomi Marritt
Dance...................Howard Sayette

Conductor...............Silvio Varviso


Review of John Rosenfield in the Dallas Morning News

Met Corrects Old Solecisms of Grand 'Aida'

There was the utmost in grandiose opera at the Music Hall Tuesday night when the Metropolitan revealed its 1963-64 "Aida." No other stage conception of such size still commands public devotion. The attendance went over 4,300, beyond capacity, and the box office was counting up around $35,200, the most abundant single night in the Metropolitan's Dallas record. The triumphal scene on the stage also set some sort of record for stage population. There was comparable vocal opulence and the grandest of operas luxuriated about the ears as well as the eyes. The throng enjoyed it, too, for the Verdi score is as catchy as it is obvious. Although Aida and Radames perish sadly in a tomb, the long evening is so full of gratifications that the melancholy is strictly an operatic convention.

Leontyne Price, the Laurel, Miss. Soprano, rose to the top among contemporary Aidas. With the two great arias, "Ritorna Vincitor" and "O Patria Mia," in the massive ensemble of Act II, in the stunning duets of the Nile scene and in the tenderness of "O Terra Aida" of the final moments, she made the performance something to cherish in memory. Miss Price was far more fortunate with this assignment than in another in Dallas. Minnie in "The Girl of the Golden West" posed all kinds of acting hazards, many inherent in a totally moribund role. Although 40 years older Aida is the better part and provides the better music. It is certainly the better music for Miss Price's voice which showed an interesting contrast of dark low and ringing top tones. Every note pulsated with a steady, meaningful vibrato. Happily for Dallas the heroine of this opera "acts" with her voice, For, if the truth be told, Miss Price is histrionically no Bernhardt or even Liz Taylor, the only other notable Egyptian missing from Act II, Scene 2.

Robert O'Hearn's new sets and costumes, replacing those by Rolf Gerard introduced by Mr. Bing in his first season, corrected two damaging solecisms. The invocation scene is no longer obstructed by the huge effigy that concealed dancing priestesses and all action important to the ceremonial. The colossal triumphal takes place before a royal dais on stage left where Verdi originally planned, and not in center stage where nobody could move anywhere.

There were, incidentally, three unusual ballet sequences staged by Katherine Dunham, a specialist in choreographic Africana. They are as removed from the kind of ballet Verdi had in mind as Cairo, Egypt, is from Cairo, Ill. The innovation works, for a wonder. Ballet in this kind of opera was meant to be looked at and the ballerina's legs to be admired. The excursion into ethnic movement patterns, barbaric leaps, and primitive makeup seems logical and justifiable as the theater.

Sandor Konya, singing Radames, seemed not too familiar with the role, but handled all the music well except the one that counts. This is the early aria, "Celeste Aida," with its extensive ascending scale. It is just plain "impossible" for most tenors. Jerome Hines was an orotund Ramfis and John Macurdy a surprisingly strong and authoritative Pharaoh. Cornell MacNeil as the Ethiopian king was big voiced and dramatic.

The well advertised Rita Gorr, expected to sing Amneris, was not among those present. She is reportedly ill in New York. Her replacement was Mignon Dunn, contralto of Memphis, but of the Mississippi Delta not the Nile. Miss Dunn has a handsome, regal figure, a dramatic contralto which she occasionally forces into harsh super-abundance. Miss Dunn had a consistent and telling acting concept of the jealous Egyptian princess. Robert Nagy was the messenger and Marcia Baldwin the off-stage priestess. Silvio Varviso conducted efficiently but rather metronomically.

"Aida" is a production difficult to lose in even an indifferent opera house. Physically the Met's "Aida" had been intolerable for decades. While the new decor does not out-build the Egyptians it represents them creditably for another stage generation. There is no more stirring event in opera than the Act II Triumphal Scene of "Aida" when the Egyptians celebrate the conquest of Ethiopia. This is the Nathaniel Merrill, Robert O'Hearn-Katherine Dunham staging of that scene in the new Metropolitan production of the Verdi opera presented at the Music Hall Tuesday night before a packed house.

The season will close Wednesday night with "Falstaff." The Dallas Grand Opera Association says it is already in conversations about next season, which will be at least twice as long as this.



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