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Bregenz Festival opens with visually stunning 'Aida'

There can't be many operatic stages more spectacular than Bregenz's outdoor Lake Stage, built on Lake Constance Noun 1. Lake Constance - a lake in southeastern Germany on the northern side of the Swiss Alps; forms part of the Rhine River
Bodensee, Constance

Deutschland, FRG, Germany, Federal Republic of Germany - a republic in central Europe; split into East Germany
 with its stunning mountain vistas and beautiful gold and purple sunsets.

But the striking visuals in the new production of Verdi's "Aida" which opened the 64th Bregenz Festival on Wednesday were breathtaking even by those standards.

British director Graham Vick Graham Vick (born Liverpool, 30 December 1953), is an English opera director.

He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto. During the 1980s he was Production Director for Scottish Opera, before working with the City of Birmingham Touring Opera.
 and his set designer Paul Brown For the politician, see Paul Brown (Georgia politician).

Paul Eugene Brown (September 7, 1908 - August 5, 1991) was a coach in American football and a major figure in the development of the National Football League.
 have rebuilt the "Seebuehne" or Lake Stage -- which was featured in the latest James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" -- from scratch.

On a huge set of steps leading down into the lake itself are a giant pair of blue star-spangled feet. In the water lie the shattered remains, also painted blue and gold, of a crowned head, an arm bearing a burning torch and a hand holding a book.

The story of Aida, the Ethiopian slave in love with the Egyptian warrior Ramades, is being played out among the ruins of the Statue of Liberty Statue of Liberty

great symbolic structure in New York harbor. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 284]

See : America

Statue of Liberty

perhaps the most famous monument to independence. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 284]

See : Freedom

"Aida", composed by Verdi in 1871, has traditionally been given monumental treatments.

But Vick's highly imaginative, opulently coloured new production, with costumes straight out of a haute couture magazine, could possibly be one of the most bombastic ever.

Not only Lake Costance itself is an integral part of the action, becoming the waters of the Nile, but two vast cranes transport the broken pieces of the Statue of Liberty around and lift the singers to vertiginous ver·tig·i·nous
1. Affected by vertigo; dizzy.

2. Tending to produce vertigo.

vertiginous adjective Related to vertigo, dizzy

In the famous Triumphal March, a huge golden elephant glides into the arena on a boat. And at the end, Aida and Ramades are not shut into a tomb, but are spirited away Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し   on a papyrus boat that disappears into the night sky high above the lake.

In an interview printed in the glossy programme, set designer Brown insists their interpretation is not just a bit of easy America-bashing.

But the references to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib See Abu Ghraib prison and Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.
The city of Abu Ghraib (BGN/PCGN romanization: Abū Ghurayb; أبو غريب in Arabic) in the Anbar Governorate of Iraq is located 32 kilometres (20 mi) west of
 are clear, if somewhat glib, when Princess Amneris arrives pulling two Ethiopian prisoners on a dog-leash and all the prisoners are shackled and hooded.

The problem with an open-air venue, particularly one as spectacular as this, is that voices need to be amplified. Orchestra and conductor are hidden away in the security and warmth of the nearby Festspielhaus theatre, with their contribution piped into the stage's vast sound system, rendering the interaction that is so vital to good opera performance impossible.

In some of the more intimate moments, the orchestra -- the otherwise excellent Vienna Symphony Orchestra -- sounded tinny tin·ny  
adj. tin·ni·er, tin·ni·est
1. Of, containing, or yielding tin.

2. Tasting or smelling of tin: tinny canned food.

, while the singers' voices were miked too loudly, mercilessly laying bare any vocal weaknesses.

Russian soprano, Tatiana Serjan, in the title role, and Georgian mezzo mez·zo  
n. pl. mez·zos
A mezzo-soprano.


Music moderately; quite: mezzo-forte


pl -zos
 Iano Tamar as her rival in love Princess Amneris, both had an audible case of nerves at the beginning, but managed to settle down later on.

Italian tenor Rubens Pelizzari as Radames has a shining timbre timbre

Quality of sound that distinguishes one instrument, voice, or other sound source from another. Timbre largely results from a characteristic combination of overtones produced by different instruments.
 in his middle register but sounds uncomfortable and forced higher up, with his voice failing him completely at one point in the final act.

US bass-baritone Kevin Short as the King and Armenian bass Tigran Martirossian were adequate as the King and High Priest Ramphis, while Italian maestro Carlo Rizzi conducted with little subtlety.

Musically, the Bregenz Festival is set to become much more interesting on Thursday night with a new production of a rarely-performed opera, "Krol Roger" (King Roger) by Polish composer Karel Szymanowski (1882-1937).

The staging will be by the Bregenz Festival's British director, David Pountney.

The festival runs until August 23, with another 27 performances of "Aida", many of them already sold out, four performances of "Krol Roger" and a wide range of orchestral concerts and other events.
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Jul 23, 2009
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