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Verdi: AidaVerdi: AidaReview of Verdi's Aida. It has been a tradition at the Miskolc Opera Festival for already three years to make one free opera performance ’in the street’. Two years ago it was Tosca, last year Traviata, and this year Verdi’s Aida. The ’choreography’ has been the same every year. There were three performances: two ’initiation performances’ with excerpts from the piece, and then a third one with the complete opera performed towards the end of the Festival. In the previous two years in the initiation performances we saw one act each time at different venues of Miskolc, and the complete performances were also open-air ones. This year it was somewhat different. In the first initiation performance (June 16th, Erzsébet square) we could listen to those singers performing later in the complete version, but they were singing arias and duets from different, popular operas, not Aida. However, in the second initiation performance we could already listen to a kind of a ’best of’ selection from Aida, still at the same venue. These two concerts were narrated amusingly by baritone András Hábetler, just like in the previous two years.

Of course, as far as its musical quality is concerned, a performance of this kind, with all the noises of the street can never be compared with an indoor one, that is, in a theatre or an opera house. (I wasn’t even sure if the singers of Aida were disturbing the fans watching the world soccer game in the nearby pub more, or the other way round.) However, the aim of such performances is to make more and more people get to know the piece and the genre of opera, and this goal was reached. Besides the large audience sitting on the chairs put on the street, all the people walking past the stage and the guests of the neighbouring cafés and pubs could get a flavour of Aida. And hopefully there were some among them, who had never been to the opera, but now decided to buy a ticket next time to a theatre.

As I already mentioned, the complete performance was held in the Ice Hall of Miskolc. In the previous years other festival concerts were also made on this venue, mainly symphonic rock concerts, but some years ago Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was performed here, as well. As director and conductor Gergely Kesselyák told the press: they have taken opera out to the street, but they would like to make it work the other way round, too, and this time ask the audience to come in to this performance.

Verdi: AidaVerdi: AidaOpen-air productions are always quite risky, because the weather is unpredictable. In the last two years they had a good run of luck, but this year it was raining during the performance. So it was the best time to decide to stage it indoors.

The production was brought to Miskolc by the Hungarian State Opera House (in the next season the same staging will be on in Budapest). Among the soloists we could hear two international stars: the Bulgarian Radostina Nikolaeva singing Aida and Hector Lopez Mendoza impersonating Radames. Besides them we had first-class Hungarian singers: Erika Gál (Amneris), Fokanov Anatolij (Amonasro), András Palerdi (Ramfis) and István Kovács (the King).


Stage director János Mohácsi did not really give any new interpretation to the well-known Aida of the Hungarian State Opera, but he did not make it worse, either. We saw a traditional Aida-production, being more static than it should be. I am by no means saying that it was a bad performance, but the it was mainly the excellent singers and the conductor – all of them performing at a high international level - who made it really exciting.

On the background setting black and gold were the dominant colours illustrating the walls of the Egyptian palace, making an impressive scenery (setting: Zsolt Khell). The golden colour was created by the different figurines and symbols graven in the wall and lit from behind.

Verdi: AidaVerdi: AidaInstead of the usual white dresses most of the characters were wearing grey and black ones (costume: Krisztina Remete), which gave more emphasis on the gloomy atmosphere of this opera. (By the way, I fully agree with this interpretation: there is a war in Egypt and triumphal march or not, this is why the two protagonist have to die.) However, the costumes were quite eclectic. Some were wearing a jacket, which I did not understand, and I found the idea of the soldiers with battle bowlers even less meaningful. We usually understand that there are soldiers on the stage without these, too.

The choreography was generally worked out well, it was impressive, and the scene of the dancing woman in white being stabbed by a stake even had a ’story’: they were making a sacrifice (choreographer: Johanna Bodor). However, I did not really like the forced acting of the juggling children acrobats (even though they were really skillful). 

As I have already mentioned, the set in this staging looked quite static, but the movements and the gestures of the singers also had a lot to be desired. I have no idea, how ancient Egyptians gestured and behaved, but I suppose, that in their private life they did it similarly to us. It was probably different at the ceremonies of the pharao or the priests, but in the solos or the duets of the private scenes the singers should have behaved more artlessly. (Of course, it is not only the problem of this performance; rather, the lack of it is a refreshing experience in most opera performances.)

I usually do not like when operas are performed in stadiums or sports halls, mainly because of the amplification. The loudspeakers make the voices sound bigger and louder, and I can never know how that particular singer could sing without a microphone. It is alright in a rock concert but it is very disillusioning in the case of an opera performance. However, the low-key amplification used in this Aida-performance was the best I have heard in such a place. All of the sounds were amplified, but without any distortion, making the audience feel even in the back rows that they are listening to the singers from very close. The one who was responsible for this technique is a real professional in this field: (Prof. Mag.) Carsten Kümmer, who was also the sound engineer of two other outdoor opera performances in Miskolc: Traviata last year and Tosca two years ago.

Unfortunately the hall has an echo, but it was not very disturbing, either.

Radostina Nikolaeva in the role of Aida proved to be a good choice. She sang the dramatic parts of her role confidently, and was convincing in the lyrical scenes, too. Her voice is well balanced in every register, it was soaring easily (singing the high ’C’ securely), her acting was acceptable.  

With his powerful, Italian-like dramatic tenor voice Hector Lopez Mendoza was an ideal Radames, though he was not perfect, and could not succeed on the closing note of his aria, for example. (The reason for this blooper probably was that he tried that pianissimo written in the score by Verdi, but few singers can do it well.) His acting was not very nuanced but on the whole we heard a good performance from him.

Verdi: AidaVerdi: AidaIt was the first time Erika Gál sang the role of Amneris, but it seemed as if she had already sung it several times. Vocally she was fully in command of her part, her beautiful mezzosoprano only became a bit forced on some high notes (for example in the Amneris-Radames duet in Act IV). At certain dramatic points she permitted herself to scream instead of singing, which was impressive and totally right in an Italian opera. The only ’negative’ thing I could mention was, that in her appearance she is not an enough cruel Amneris, her delicate features make us wonder why Radames did not choose her… Erika Gál got the biggest applause this evening, and she deserved it.

Anatolij Fokanov did not disappoint us, either. He always sings in a reliable manner, and with style (he is a real Verdi baritone). His rough movements are worthy of criticism but his passionate acting far outweighed that.

András Palerdi was grave and notable in the role of Ramfis, the High Priest, and István Kovács was a majestic King. The young soprano, Melinda Heiter sang the part of the High Priestess, and we got a well-known tenor - Gergely Boncsér - even in the small role of the Messanger. 

Verdi: AidaVerdi: AidaConductor Gergely Kesselyák was doing great things this evening. Aida is a difficult task for a conductor per se, but with an opera performed so often, it is even more difficult to get rid of the so many ingrained musical clichés. But this time, instead of a routin performance, an energetic, fresh musical production was born. The conductor took the trouble to pay attention even to the most subtle details of the score, to rediscover the work, and to make us rediscover it, as if we had heard it for the first time. He held the huge choir, the soloists (he was paying attention to every singer) and the orchestra (including the brass winds being far from him) together successfully, creating a homogeneous sound throughout the whole work. The best proof of his excellent sense of proportion was the grand finale of the 2nd act. Unfortunately, this part is usually played in a rough-and-ready way, putting all singers, the choir and the orchestra behind the soloists, as simple accompaniments. But this time all the performers were given special attention, by this means unfolding every beauty of this brilliantly composed, grandiose scene.

I learned that the Ice Hall has a capacity of almost two thousand people. Although there were some empty seats on the balcony, it is evident, that an almost completely sold-out opera performance in such a big coliseum is a great success.


Balázs Csák



20 June, 2014, Miskolc, Ice Hall - Bartók Plus Opera Festival


Giuseppe Verdi:



Opera in four acts

Sung in Italian.

Coopruduction of the Hungarian State Opera House and the Bartók Plus Opera Festival.

Set: Zsolt Khell

Costume: Krisztina Remete

Choreography: Johanna Bodor

Conductor: Gergely Kesselyák

Stage director: János Mohácsi


The King - István Kovács

Amneris, his daughter - Erika Gál

Aida, Ethiopian princess - Radostina Nikolaeva

Radames, Captain of the Guard - Hector Lopez Mendoza

Ramfis, high Priest - Palerdi András

Amonasro, Ethiopian king - Fokanov Anatolij

High Priestess - Melinda Heiter

Messanger - Gergely Boncsér


Performed by the Hungarian State Opera House



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