The Kungliga Operan in Stockholm revived its Michael Cavanagh production of Aida with different principals. The staging was more convincing than the first time I saw it last February, but this may be the result of a better seat in the theatre. Vertical and horizontal black panels restricted or revealed the view of the stage like a camera aperture, zooming in on details. This technique was both original and effective.

Andrea Carè (Radamès) and Maria Katzarava (Aida)
© Markus Gårder

During the prelude, the curtain opened on the final scene of the opera: Aida and Radamès are dead, and Amneris has slit her wrists, her blood seeping into the lovers’ tomb. The King is desperately crying over his daughter’s body, refusing the comfort offered by the Chief Priest, Ramfis, pushing him away.

Amneris’ suicide is not in the original plot of Aida and director Michael Cavanagh has added it without much explanation. In general, there was very little Personenregie in this Aida, and this remains its major flaw. The director has largely left the singers to their own devices, which led to very little interpretation. As an example, in Act 4, Verdi created one of the most effective theatrical scenes: Radamès’ trial is happening backstage, and on stage we see Amneris, alone, who hears the proceedings in despair and horror as the man she loves is condemned to be buried alive. When the high priests leave the courtroom, she attacks them and launches into the most melodramatic of curses in operatic history. In this production, the trial was visible behind a white gauze curtain. Amneris was standing still in front of it, not even wringing her hands. Miriam Treichl gave us a committed and successful vocal performance, drawing cheers and enthusiasm from the audience, but from a theatrical perspective, the scene was dry and cold.

Miriam Treichl (Amneris)
© Markus Gårder

Julia Jones conducted the Royal Swedish Orchestra in an emotionally charged reading. During the first act, the sound from the pit was perhaps a bit too exhilarating and tended to overpower the singers, but in the following acts Jones found balance. The chorus sang with great precision and careful dynamics.

Mexican soprano Maria Katzarava sang Aida; her voice was robust and uniform throughout the whole range, her vibrato a little wobbly in the high register, but her top notes were bright and confident. She tended to sing everything in forte dynamics, making her performance very exciting, if perhaps not the most nuanced.

Miriam Treichl (Amneris) and Andrea Carè (Radamès)
© Markus Gårder

Andrea Carè was an elegant Radamès. His experience and natural stage presence made him the most successful actor of the evening. During the Triumphal Scene, Radamès relives the horrors of the war, with terrifying scenes shown in a very successful coup de théâtre; Carè managed to represent a credible soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with great emotion. His musical interpretation was stylish, but his voice did not seem to be in its best shape: he ran out of breath in the reprise of “Celeste Aida” and seemed to be a bit strained during the third act duet. Nevertheless, his tenor was warm and generous, and his performance was quite enjoyable.

Miriam Treichl was a convincing Amneris, her voice strong in the lower register and with brilliant high notes... one of the most appreciated performers.