Major opera companies like to maintain in their store cupboards certain central titles in failsafe productions. Verdi’s popular ancient Egyptian epic falls into that category, though when David McVicar’s staging was new in 2010 it didn’t garner the universal welcome accorded to some of his more sure-fire shows at this address - Figaro and The Magic Flute, for example. For a start, its avoidance of specifically Egyptian imagery and substitution of mix’n’match motifs from the Aztecs to Afghanistan seems perverse. The semi-sexualised choreography for the ballet sequences looks ridiculous. And at this first revival, there is a low level of serious dramatic engagement from most of the principals.
Lludmyla Monastyrska (Aida) and Roberto Alagna (Radames) in Aida at the Royal Opera House Photo: Bill Cooper/ROH
This is perhaps understandable given that the Aida, Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, was only awarded the central role following the departure of Micaela Carosi after the general rehearsal. Monastyrska makes a more than decent vocal shot at the part, clearly knowing it well and certainly able to sing it, even if she is dramatically tentative. Her words barely register. Roberto Alagna sings a characteristically eager Radames, if not a subtle one, but rarely seems to connect with her.
Michael Volle makes more sense of Amonasro and Olga Borodina’s Amneris has all guns blazing, producing the most convincing realisation on stage. Vitalij Kowaljow is an impressive Ramfis and Brindley Sherratt a vocally commanding King, though it’s easy to see that the power in this kingdom - wherever it’s supposed to be - resides with the priests.
Fabio Luisi’s conducting needs more dramatic dynamism, too, but that’s the show’s general weak spot.