Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Staging the most spectacular of Italian operas is a logistical challenge for any company, as Verdi himself discovered when his scenery for the Cairo première remained stuck in Paris for months.
Dnipro Opera’s immediate problem for its Cheltenham performance was not quite on the same scale, but the lorry carrying all the scenery arrived just two hours before the performance, either because of a breakdown or having been stuck among the Gold Cup race-going traffic.
That left little time for the company, few of whom speak English, to adjust lighting, flats and backdrops before curtain-up. But from adversity came something of a triumph, an admirable and enjoyable show, full of commitment from the performers.
The production is predictably traditional, with three large pharaonic statues and monumental pillars, historical costumes, bare-legged warriors, even an Aida and her dad in brown-face, evidently a less sensitive issue in Ukraine than here.
Nadia Yeremenko, one of two Aidas on the tour, is irresistibly plaintive in the serene "Numi, pieta", holding its dying notes beautifully, and with expressive dynamic control here and elsewhere. She became ever more persuasive as the evening went on.
Her Radames, Oleksii Srebnytskyi, may never win an acting Oscar, but his appealing tenor voice has a clarion quality, and he sings with a no-nonsense approach that somehow matches his wrestler’s physique.
Veronika Koval steals the dramatic honours as Amneris, insinuating as an asp, writhing with remorse in the closing scenes, with sure, powerful top notes and warm lower register.
Andrii Lomakovych is a smooth-toned, authoritative Amonasro, Maksym Ivanshchuk equally so as the high priest Ramfis, and Tetiana Halkina shines, briefly, as the Priestess.
Most impressive of all were the 20-strong chorus, while woodwinds and brass featured prominently in the orchestra, conducted with vigour by Ihor Puchkov.
At the curtain call, two extras unveiled the Ukrainian flag on stage before the orchestra played its national anthem, to renewed applause and cheers from the audience. But the reception was not merely sentimental—the well-wishing was heartfelt and welcome, but this fine show stands on its own merit.
Reviewer: Colin Davison