Opera in Santa Cruz: Verdi's AIDA

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AIDA by Giuseppe Verdi - Auditorio de Santa Cruz, 7th of March 2015

I was a little apprehensive about this one. I’d been used to the opera season on this island being in the autumn and here we are in March. And it sounded rather ambitious too, Verdi’s Aida . . .  that’s got a lot of singers in it  . . . .  and with a replica of the great Franco Zeffirelli’s production in 2001 commemorating the  centenary of Verdi’s death.

But I needn’t have worried; they filled it up . . .  and they put on a great show. Year after year they do themselves proud.

Who are they? You may ask. Well I’m not sure exactly . . . .  but someone here loves opera. I think there’s some sort of secret society organizing all this . . . it’s probably called Tenerife Friends of the Opera, or some such.

 

So let’s put this in perspective  . . . where are we?

This small town on a remote, isolated rock in the Atlantic Ocean has an opera season. Small and provincial, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, has a population the size of Swindon. And yet we get to see some proficient, reputable opera year after year.

I usually pay 20 – 30 € a seat . . . . .  What? Where can you see opera for that sort of price? This must be massively subsidized. Hmmm  . . . a secret society with good “connections”.

Aida in Tenerife March 2015

 

Yes, someone here loves opera, and they have the means . . .  

Firstly the building is amazing, a majestic monument of architectural beauty . . . . . with great acoustics, good enough for the cheap seats at the back to be the best ones. The Auditorio de Tenerife  . . . I love everything about that building. Go there for music, any music, it sounds good and feels good.

Secondly, the “Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife” is a seriously significant world class, outfit; there’s nothing provincial about them.

So how do they do it?

The sets are usually sparse (but not this time), they use the local orchestra which is probably funded by the cabildo. They ship in a handful of international stars for the key parts and they fill it out with the local choir and local talent. I’ve been to quite a few and what I’ve seen has always been good, professional and accomplished . . . . . and occasionally quite  brilliant.

For this Aida we had an Italian soprano for the title role and Radamés was a tenor from Chile. The most interesting and complex character in the story is Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, she was performed superbly by a mezzosoprano from Cincinnati U.S.A. who took the applause and the “bravos” at the end, Marianne Cornetti is her name.

AIDA in Santa Cruuz Tenerife March 2015

 

There was a Tuesday, a Thursday and a Saturday performance. We went on the Saturday and the place was just about full, apart from a corner down on the right.

Unfortunately we had a “calima de la hostia” that day, a living breathing Saharan dust storm. There was an announcement that the lead soprano Micaela Carosi was under the weather but would soldier on so as not to let her public down . . . cue applause. She did well but Cornetti stole the show.

The audience weren’t unaffected by the sand either, they coughed and spluttered for a few minutes, then settled down until the interval, then they were off again.

Aida in tenerife march 2015

 

 

The big difference with this production was the scenery. Stefano Trespidi, the Italian stage director had recreated Zeffirelli’s magnificent sets to great effect. I’ve seen nothing like it here before, there were five complete changes, a huge undertaking for just three nights.  It’s a shame the cast weren’t a bit more animated and there wasn’t a little more movement . . . . with the exception of Cornetti who gesticulated valiantly, and perhaps the King of Ethiopia (Damiano Salerno) everyone was a little static.

The Tenerife Symphony Orchestra were sublime . . . as usual. Conducted by Massimiliano Stefanelli from Rome.

I enjoyed that so much.

I think we can look forward to a single performance of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena . . . yes, she that had her head chopped off by our Henry . . . in May. Then let’s see what they come up with in the autumn.

 

Not a lot going on out here in the Atlantic Ocean – but this is something else.

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