Saturday's concert version of "Aida" by the Greater Bridgeport Symphony pared Giuseppe Verdi's monumental four-hour opera to two hours, but that didn't dampen any of the opera's dramatic intensity at the Klein Memorial Auditiorium.
The GBS capped its season with much of the "monumental" aspects of this opera remaining intact.
One case in point was the Triumphal March. In a fully staged version, the hero Radames enters with the conquering Egyptian army with enormous celebration and sweeping visual spectacle. And although the concert version naturally omits all the staged aspects of this jubilant scene, Maestro Gustav Meier and the GBS nontheless provided their own intense excitement.
The Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut, under the direction of its Artistic Director Dr. Carole Ann Maxwell, has established itself as one of the pre-eminent choral ensembles in New England. The Choir will widen its sphere of recognition when the singers perform for The National Pastoral Musicians' Conference in June and engage in a European Concert Tour to Italy in July.
In fact, the outstanding trumpet work of James Ranti and principal Joseph Kaminski was in itself a musical triumph within the march. The entire orchestra, in fact, scored a major victory as "Aida" unfolded.
Was it any wonder that with Meier leading this elite orchestra, that the concert turned into a triumph?
One of the best aspects of the evening was that the GBS victory seemed so natural, so unforced. The orchestra captured and underlined all the dramatic tension of the opera, which centers on a love triangle: Egyptian commander Radames is betrothed to the Egyptian Princess Amneris, but is actually in love with Amneris' Ethiopian slave Aida.
In a striking way, the GBS orchestra was playing its own leading role along with the three singers in this concert version.
The singers themselves brought a depth of drama quickly to the concert after a slightly hesitant opening.
Lisa Daltirus brought her amazing soprano to the title role. She sang Aida with a range of emotion that really soared. She achieved an emotional depth not only in her arias but in her duets, displaying to the audience that she is admirably ready for any fully staged "Aida."
There was also great drama in the duets between Charlotte Daw Paulsen as Princess Amneris and Daltirus.
Paulsen's striking mezzo-soprano was effective throughout as the princess jilted by Radames for the slave Aidda. She also brought an emotional depth to her role, but her low notes never reached the mezzanine on a few occasions.
As Radames, Jeffrey Springer brought a strong tenor that grew in dramatic intensity during the concert.
All the crowd scenes were handled admirably well by the always-strong Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut, right down to the ominous chanting of the judges who condemned Radames to an early death.
Finally, the narration written by Meier and offered in a clear and concise fashion by conductor Mark Shapiro of New York (one of Meier's former students), added insight to the action.
All in all, the real victory honored n the evening's triumphal march wasn't that of the army but that of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony.
Joseph Pronechen, Correspondent
News & Reviews
From a visitor to our website:
"Your group is wonderful! While looking for samples of the music we are performing in the next couple of weeks, I heard your excerpts on the Geocities "Hear the Choirs Sing" website. I was wondering who arranged the versions of "All the Things You Are" and "Stardust" that you sang so beautifully."