Frankfurter Allgemeine

Frankfurter Allgemeine

The director Stathis Livathinos, artistic director of the Greek National Theatre for the past two years, stages his first opera with this "Aida." He opts neither for opulent set design nor for updates like the one-time portrayal of Aida as a cleaning lady at the Bregenz Festival. Livathinos focuses on the inner world of his characters within the framework of a parabolic story about patriotism and love in a timeless aesthetic. A project where the stage is stark and the audience, at times, remains unmoved.

However, a wonderfully magical image appears at the beginning. Even before the prelude, the director lets the sound of the sea ring out, artificial fog sweeps over the wechselhaft (variably) illuminated rocks, as if a wave were breaking in slow motion. An image of timeless violence and anticipation of all the threats of the play, when the water symbolically spills into the auditorium.

In contrast, the rock ceiling with a hole that relentlessly descends downward piece by piece seems too transparent, ultimately sparing the lovers but crushing Amneris.

Otto Pichler's choreography repeatedly adds unexpected flashes of sarcasm to the production. Between acts, there's a joyful march off to war; the return is ridiculously decimated and battered. Otherwise, much is simple doubling and reinforcement of the already understood meaning. The slaves scream heart-wrenchingly in the dance, while the upper class revels in it. Not wrong, not new.

Whenever things become mythical or exotic in Verdi's original subject, when gods are worshipped or warriors are consecrated, Livathinos avoids an interpretation of these scenes by letting a curtain painted with hieroglyphs fall before the scene. In such moments, he has the people who are getting close to us step in front of said cloth. There, there is ramp singing with a lot of aplomb, which at least has a more authentic impact than the often wooden, antique, and gesture-laden acting of his protagonists. 

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