Friday, 9 March 2012

Theatrical Interlude 1 (2012)

Aida, Royal Albert Hall, March 2012

This was a new theatrical experience for me - an opera, in Italian and staged in the round.

I'm not a stranger to opera in some ways as my parents like the music a lot and CDs of various operas were often playing when I was at living at home but actually seeing one was new.

Mr Norfolkbookworm and I went to one of the Christmas music extravaganzas at the Royal Albert Hall just before Christmas 2011 and picked up a leaflet for Aida, on mentioning it to my mum we discovered that it was my dad's favourite opera and thus the super secret birthday outing was concocted.

As there were four of us we booked seats in one of the boxes on the 2nd tier which was lovely, we had a pretty good view of all of the stage, the wonderful projections and the surtitles. We also had plenty of space to store our wet coats and umbrellas which was a great relief as the weather was a little inclement the day we went. Tea and coffee being delivered in the interval was a real luxury and meant no frantic queueing!

I don't know what I was expecting from an opera, I think I thought it would be a little stuffy and hard to follow but, this version at least, captivated me.

The actors, dancers and singers were all, in my opinion, very good. Their voices filled the Hall beautifully and event when the surtitles were brief the plot was easy to follow. The space in the Royal Albert Hall was used to the full, there was a fountain on stage at one point and sometimes the chorus were up above the 'gods' so the singing floated down in a truly beautiful way.

The score was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and despite the scale of the venue every note could be heard. The people sitting next to us constantly referring to the RPO as 'the band' nearly had us all in hysterics, such wonderful music reduced to that!

I don't know that I am a convert to opera, I liked this fun, immersive style but when I've seen performances from the New York Met on the television it hasn't captivated me like this one did but never say never, and I am now looking for a good ballet to see to continue expanding my horizons.

The one thing that amuses me however is how sniffy critics can be about modern musicals and their 'thin' be honest Aida isn't a deep story and the characters all a little fickle. Of course opera is classical and culture so it is all okay - unlike musical theatre which is merely populist.

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