[Met Performance] CID:295090

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, January 12, 1989

Review 1:

John Rockwell in The New York Times
5 New Singers Instead of 7 In the Cast of 8 for “Aida”

In the steadily shifting panoply that counts as casting coherence at the Metropolitan Opera these days, Thursday night's performance of "Aida" included five singers and a conductor who did not perform the opera at the [first] night of this new production five weeks ago. It would have been a nearly clean sweep — an entirely different cast apart from Paul Plishka's Ramfis — except that two original cast members, Leona Mitchell in the title role and John Gilmore as the Messenger, substituted for Aprile Millo and Charles Anthony, who were both indisposed.

Given the stand-and-sing blocking of Sonja Frisell's production, not much seems to have been lost dramatically. The best performance of the night was Stefania Toczyska's Amneris, closely followed by Alain Fondary's Amonasro (Miss Mitchell' s Aida was good, too, and she blossomed right after it was announced during the first intermission that she, too, was slightly indisposed). Miss Toczyska, who is from Poland, has a solid, pleasing, decent-sized mezzo-soprano. Just as important, she acted with proper imperiousness and phrased with rhythmic alacrity and an ear for what the conductor was up to. In other words, while some tethers in the cast found it hard to keep precisely synchronized with Christian Badea in the pit, she and Mr. Fondary sounded completely at ease with his ideas of phrasing and tempo, which made both them and him look good.

Mr. Fondary, a French baritone, sang with authoritative strength, an effectively weighty timbre and an exciting dramatic emphasis. He would make a strong Rigoletto or Iago, one might think.

Radames — actually, the season's third, after Placido Domingo on open*ing night and Lando Bartolini for some performances in between — was Vladimir Popov. Someone seems to have been coaching Mr. Popov carefully since he arrived here seven years ago as a Russian immigrant. He is singing with considerably more cultivation now, although he is no actor, his phrasing sounds more studied than instinctive and he sometimes drifts alarmingly from pitch. Still, he is a decent-looking man and he has a genuinely strong, well-focused tenor.

The other newcomers to the cast were Stephen Dupont, who looked handsome if impossibly young as the King and sang with decent bass authority, and Margaret Jane Wray, who chirped prettily as the temple priestess.

Mr. Badea's conducting sounded a little rough here and there but moved the action forward purposefully and idiomatically.

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