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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Friday, April 13, 2007


On Wednesday night I was able to attend the final dress rehearsal for Houston Grand Opera's new production of Verdi's Aida.

This is a new production by set and costume designer Zandra Rhodes. The cast for this production includes: Zvetelina Vassileva as Aida, Dolora Zajick as Amneris, and Marco Berti as Radames. At the final dress rehearsal Marco Berti was not feeling well and Dongwon Shin sang the role of Radames. Carlo Rizzi is the Conductor for this production.

This was the first time I had seen a production of Aida and I did not know a lot of details about the opera going in. The opera certainly has some beautiful music and I can see the reasons for its continued popularity. Still, I would not consider it to be one of my favorite Verdi operas.

Musically this production is very good. Dolora Zajick turned in a wonderful performance and is the real highlight of the production. I was also impressed with the singing of Zvetelina Vassileva (an artist who I had not heard of previously). Dongwon Shin did an admirable job of filling in on short notice for Marco Berti. There were a few truly impressive moments when he really displayed the power and depth of his vocal range. He is a performer to keep one's eye on. Carlo Rizzi also did a fine job of conducting and was constantly rehearsing the Orchestra and Chorus during the intermission and even after the performance. The Chorus, in particular, did an amazing job in my opinion. The choral responses during the temple scenes were sung beautifully. I could not help but be reminded of Russian Orthodox Choral music for some reason during these scenes. I will have to study the score for those sections and learn more about how Verdi composed them.

All that said, this is a production that is being billed primarily on the merits of its costumes and set design...and, unfortunately, I believe the results are a mixed bag. First off, I admit that overall the production was better than I had anticipated. I am really not a big fan of modern productions (or re-imaginings) of the standard Opera repertoire. I thought the costumes (which are VERY colorful) were done well and added greatly to the production. The production sets, on the other hand, I found to be too simplistic and mostly uninspiring. The ballet and the Triumphal March sections I found to be well done exceptions. The inclusion of the implied or "invisible" elephant was a highlight.

In general, I would recommend this production for the musical performances but not for the overall production. I am sure that these types of productions are meant to help draw in a younger crowd of first-time opera goers. Most of the younger audience members who sat near me, however, seemed pretty unimpressed with the costumes and sets.



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