I haven’t written a theatre review for ages. Not because we haven’t been to anything but, I think, because we went to see something and I just didn’t know what to write so I lost confidence in my opinions. Which is odd because I’m seldom unable to voice my opinions!
Then last week Ian McMillan’s Yorkshire Post column said something along the lines of “Don’t wait for inspiration. It won’t happen. Just sit down and get into the habit of writing”. So, here goes!
I haven’t ever seen Aida performed on stage in its entirety. I’ve seen bits of it live and I know the opera from listening to records as it was one of my Dad’s favourites.
This production was a concert performance by Opera North in Leeds Town Hall and I went with friends who are far more knowledgeable about opera than I am.
I actually prefer concert performances of operas. Generally, as a play goer more than an opera goer, I find the not great acting from most opera singings a distraction from what’s going on. In a concert performance no-one is trying to act beyond their capabilities and it matters less that the young general is being played by someone in his mid-50s.
The orchestra of Opera North were great, as always, and I enjoyed watching them play. I loved the fact the trumpet players came to the front of the stage with proper heralding trumpets for the Grand March.
I thought the singing was great and my friend, who is seriously into opera, said it was sung well, which I consider high praise from her.
The costumes were modern and, on the whole, effective. The only one that didn’t work was the King of Egypt’s. It wasn’t clear that he was King unless you happened to know the story. And I have no idea why he walked on eating a sandwich!
There was very little in the way of props; a few stools, a doorway and an odd cushion. The scenery was a small backcloth, high-ish up that had scenes projected onto it. This became a bit of a distraction. I understood when scenes of destruction from the 20th & 21st century conflicts around the Middle East were being shown; Aida is set in war time period and they remind us of what war looks like from within. The hands removing plaster of paris from each other and the moving feet were unnecessary distractions and I don’t think added any texture to the performance.
Overall though I am so pleased I went. It reminded me how much I love the music and how wonderful it is to come out of a live music event wrapped in the warm blanket of shared enjoyment.