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Baltimore Opera offers a stirring 'Aida'

Stay tuned to Thursday's paper for a fuller review of Baltimore Opera's new production of Aida. Meanwhile, I can tell you this much: It's one of the most satisfying things I've seen the company do.

Saturday's opening night at the Lyric revealed so-so acting skills, but considerable musical strengths from the cast, notably tenor Antonello Palombi as Radames. He sang with great respect for Verdi's intentions (especially when it came to high, soft notes) and with palpable connection to the words. At a time when most voices seem smaller than in the good old days, it's exciting to hear a tenor who can produce so much sound, but with so much tonal variety as well; no mindless, stand-and-bark routine for this guy. Tiziana Caruso's ample low register and more limited top range suggested she would have been even more at home in the mezzo assignment of Amneris than the title role, but the soprano made her mark effectively in several key passages of the opera. Giovanna Casolla, usually heard in soprano territory, offered vocal amplitude and intensity of expression as Amneris. Mark Rucker's artistry, a combination of tone, temperament and taste, filled out the role of Amonasro handsomely. Ashley Howard Wilkinson had many a deep, resonant phrase as Ramfis.

Conductor Andrea Licata, as usual, provided a textbook case of authentic Italian opera conducting -- passionate, yet sensible; propulsive, yet always open to possibilities for rubato. The orchestra turned in some exciting work.

Designer/director Paolo Micciche once again provided projections of digital imagery in lieu of big sets and hordes of supernumeraries. The approach is a little too predictable by this point, and maybe a little too literal for its own good, but it does keep the eye engaged, just as Alberto Spiazzi's showy costumes do.

Whatever my reservations about one element or another, the overall impact of this Aida is sizable. Remaining performances are Wednesday and Friday nights and Sunday afternoon with Palombi/Caurso; Saturday night with Efe Kislali and Virginia Todisco taking the leads.

(Photo Courtesy Of Paolo Micciche/Baltimore Opera)

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