It has become a truism that Verdi's Aida is a graveyard for directors. In recent years, I have seen it as a vapid fashion show, another set in an ill-defined warrior society, yet another as a Night in the Museum, and one in 19th-century colonial times. A mid-season revival in Brno saw a more tradional approach. Given that there is a revolving cast of regular guest and company principals throughout the season there is little scope for a complex interpretation requiring long rehearsal.

Jan Šťáva (King of Egypt), Veronika Hajnová Fialová (Amneris)
Jan Šťáva (King of Egypt), Veronika Hajnová Fialová (Amneris)
The theatre has a large, well-equipped stage and the impressive unit set made full use of its height and depth, with a massive stairway and a central gateway. This could be closed off with screens  to create more intimate areas, finally forming the fatal tomb. Lighting and projections varied the texture from masonry to natural vegetation.

Costumes were pure Hollywood Pharaonic in a basic scheme of gold, white and black highlighted by glittering Tutankhamun masks, headdresses, lapis lazuli torques and flocks of ostrich feather fans. Aida, lightly tanned, stood out in rose and turquoise, and there could be no doubt as to the kingship of Amonasro towering in skins, lamé and gold-beaded dreadlocks.

The Aida, Radamès and Amonasro were all regular guest artists. Anda-Louise Bogza, Romanian but Czech based, has sung the title role at both the Berlin Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper as well as at the Wiener Staatsoper. Clearly experienced, her metallic dramatic soprano, well able to ride the ensemble at the end of Act 2, was tempered by a resonant rich chest register. With skilful use of portamento and deft employment of vocal gear-changing, she successfully negotiated the exposed end of "O patria mia". Her regal manner unbalanced the usual slave/mistress relationship with the softer grained Amneris of Veronika Hajnová Fialová, whose other roles include Dorabella and Charlotte. Nevertheless, with her secure upper register she delivered a fiery denunciation of the priests at the end of the Trial Scene.

Anda-Louise Bogza (Aida), Rafael Alvarez (Radamès)
Anda-Louise Bogza (Aida), Rafael Alvarez (Radamès)
Czech based Mexican tenor Rafael Alvarez is the tenor of choice for roles such as Adorno, Chénier, Canio and Calaf locally. His stentorian, forwardly placed tenor was evident in "Celeste Aida", and one grew accustomed to his bracing himself before hurling out explosive top notes into the audience. Both he and the Aida were capable of more subtle dynamics at the start of the final duet but, despite plangently delicate orchestral accompaniment, it soon became clear that the tragic pair would not go gently into the night.

Richard Haan was a forceful granite voiced Amonasro, and Jiří Sutženko a powerfully implacable Ramfis. The young bass Jan Šťáva impressed as an incisive black voiced King.

Anda-Louise Bogda (Aida), Richard Haan (Amonasro)
Anda-Louise Bogda (Aida), Richard Haan (Amonasro)

Jaroslav Kyzlink, Musical Director of the National Theatre in Prague, conducted a dynamic performance balancing the grandeur of the public scenes with more intimate colours, especially in the Nile Scene, with characterful woodwinds. With a chorus of 80, notable for sonorous sacerdotal basses, a full corps de ballet, on-stage trumpeters and Radamès arriving on stage in a slave drawn chariot the Triumphal Scene built to an impressive climax.

The audience, including many attentive young people, thrilled to this evening of Grand Opera and the manifest strength of the ensemble.