Annapolis Chorale's 'Aida,' Still Getting Primed

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The concert version of "Aida" presented over the weekend by the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra was the trial run of what's being billed as a fully staged mega-production. At Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Saturday, Music Director J. Ernest Green led the cast of principals slated to embark on a world tour of Verdi's tale of love and betrayal set in ancient Egypt.

Jeniece Goldbourne was a viperous Amneris, a bit vocally spread rather than laser-focused. The orchestra never covered her booming low notes, and her top soared regally to the role's high G's and B-flat. Shouvik Mondle sang with enormous volume as Amonasro, perhaps overlarge for the context, with one crack on an early high F. Antonio Nagore had the stamina for Radam├Ęs, but the crucial B-flats were at the edge of control and cut short more than once. As Aida, Leah Anne Myers's low range sounded forced, but her high pianissimo was pure and always in tune.

The drawbacks of performing a major opera with a volunteer chorus included the priests going flat in the unaccompanied sections of the Act 1 temple scene. Struggling with the reduction of Verdi's complicated score (without the extensive ballet music), the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra gave lovely flute and oboe solos in Act 3, but the strings, especially at high and low extremes and in divisi sections, played some howlers.

As for that grand tour, it will feature Green and the principals (though billed as "international stars," none of them are major names). This ambitious approach has been taken before with "Turandot," and the producers proclaim that it "may change forever the way operas are produced worldwide." Let us hope they are wrong.

-- Charles T. Downey

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