Tbilisi State Opera

Verdi, Aida

What a shame the performance of Verdi‘s Aida at the Tbilisi State Opera tonight interfered with the audience’s conversations, mobile phones, coming-and-going, and general overall rudeness.  The audience members were so determined to chatter, they even had to talk louder to hear each other over the louder sections of the music.  Then they probably thought that lots of inappropriate clapping would make it all better, rather than being further disruptive. And the standing ovation at the end also didn’t help (the cast must have also noticed the rude audience, since despite the standing ovation they did not even bother to come out for a bow at the end).

The performance itself (or what I could hear) was OK.  Orchestra was once again good, cast was mostly fine if not special.  The Amonasro was excellent.  The Radames was the same person who sang the tenor lead last Sunday – he has a good voice, but funny Italian pronunciation (and at one point obviously forgot the words and just sang la-la-la-la, not that anyone was likely to notice other than me).

The mock Egyptian staging was dumb – it was not clear that the director understood Italian or even read the libretto in any language, since the action on stage often had little relation to what was being sung.  Some of these were just details, but some were not explicable: for example, in the final scene, Radames (and Aida) were not enclosed in the tomb until the final moments (when the whole scene is supposed to take place already in the tomb – that’s the whole point).  When Radames sings that not even his strong arms can move the rock away from the entrance to the tomb (which, again, makes no sense if they are not inside), the director had Radames, and then Aida, sip water (or was it poison?) ostentatiously from a ceremonial dish.

Tbilisi State Opera

Paliashvili, Abesalom da Eteri

Considered the masterpiece of Georgian classical music, Zakharia Paliashvili‘s opera Abesalom da Eteri from 1919 combined Georgian polyphonic modes with Western operatic traditions.  Gorgeous, moody, raw music – I wish it were performed outside Georgia (and that there were a reasonable-quality recording available on CD).

The music was sort of like Rimsky’s Kitezh, but with the rawness of Mussorgsky.  I have no idea if it has ever been performed outside Georgia – the Georgian language being somewhat obscure, I am not sure it would be performed by non-Georgians except in translation.

This is my first performance at the Tbilisi State Opera, which has an ornate neo-Persian theater.  The quality of the opera company is better than in many eastern European houses, most of which seem to have had their talent drained to higher-paying western houses. This was quite a good performance.  Staging was minimal but sensible. Costumes were appropriate for the mythical setting.

I think the house saved its money by not installing lightbulbs.  The lobby, hallways, and bathrooms were all mostly dark.  But the building itself was floodlit from the outside – I presume that comes from the city’s budget and not from the opera house’s.