This is my first review in English language, so I apologize in advance for the grammar and vocabulary mistakes. I attended the performances on the 19th and 22 March, with the same cast except for Amneris. My reviews are not professional and are based in my very personal experience and opinion.
The Teatro Real has scheduled Aida after a 20 years' absence from stages in Madrid, and this is the reason why many members of the audience were experiencing, for the first time in their lives, this opera live. Aida is a masterpiece, not only due to a few great scenes with many people on stage but also to its love story of three people who love intensely and suffer as a result. All this geniality is lying on one of the most beautiful opera scores ever composed by the maestro Verdi.
This production was a "revival" of the 1998 much celebrated staging by Hugo de Ana. In 2018 security reasons have transformed it into a "new" one. The result is an visually spectacular piece of stage work but falls short on exploring the drama and this setting present some issues.
When the metal coloured egyptian-styled front curtain rises, we are presented with a desert scene and an obelisk in the middle. During the overture, a 3D virtual tour of an Egyptian temple is projected on a transparent curtain. Projections of Ancient Egypt themes are a constant throughout the whole show, thus rendering a problem of visibility in lateral zones, especially in Act 1, the beggining of Act 3 and the end. Lavishness and sumptuosity are adjectives to define everything here: the dazzling costumes of the soloists and the chorus, the richly decorated room of Amneris in Act 2 or the big and omnipresent pyramid in Act 2 finale, with the Pharaoh and priests standing up and the people standing in the ground, the golden statues and the rich ark appearing as the curtain falls, or the dances. The choreography by Leda Lojodice wasn't always successful: the priestesses' dance in Act 1 was an spectral one made by almost nude dancers which are, assumedly, mummies trying to unsuccessfully unbound themselves. Act 2 Triumphal March was a dance of soldiers and the following ballet was better suited for the female dancers than for their male counterparts.
Nicola Luisotti's rendition went in crescendo from a lesser quality to the highest but lacked some tension and agility (for example, I wasn't impressed by the Act 2 Finale). On 22nd March he did a better job and the prelude or Act 3 were beautifully conducted.
Liudmila Monastyrska, one of today's most reputed Verdian sopranos, made her debut at the Teatro Real with a beautiful Aida. Her voice is beautiful and big: her high notes are able to drown the chorus, the orchestra and her fellow soloists. Her pianissimo notes are splendid too. She gave the audience unforgettable renditions of Numi Pietà and O Patria mia.
Gregory Kunde returned to the Teatro Real as Radames. He has shown he is a great artist and an amazing voice at his 64 years. He still maintains a heroic tone, amazing high notes and an astonishing ressistance when other younger tenors would collapse. He display many efforts in his Celeste Aida. Nevertheless, he rendered a great version. In Acts 3 and 4 we saw him coming back in all his glory and singing the duets with a beautiful and heroic voice, and gave a moving rendition of La Fatal Pietra at the end.
Ekaterina Semenchuk has an amazing contralto voice and her Amneris was marvellous on March 19th. Violeta Urmana sang the role on March 22nd and her Amneris was well acted and beautifully sung. She conveys the royal dignity and love despair of her character at the same time with great conviction. In their own different ways, both singers gave unforgettable renditions of the Judgement Scene, with Urmana making a long and amazing high note at the end.
Ramfis was well sung by Roberto Tagliavini, Soloman Howard has a great physical appearance and a dark voice for the Pharaoh and George Gagnidze was a decent Amonasro.
The audience seemed to enjoy the show, they wanted to see this Aida. That's why tickets are were sold out for all performances. The performance of 22nd March was ovationed and the audience seemed satisfied.