Aida Steals the Show at the Lyric Opera

American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky eclipses everyone on the stage in the Lyric Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.”

And it’s not just the cobalt blue gown she wears. The production, rich in melody and splendor, recently opened at the Civic Opera House.

Her voice is so strong, her shading so stunning and her emotion so stirring that even the massive choruses, the lively dancers and a host of superior singers pale by comparison.

There is a golden glow to her robust voice, which in a heartbeat she can reduce to a shimmering filament of sound, breaking our hearts in the process.

Italian tenor Marcello Giordani is Aida’s Radames, the Egyptian general who defeats the Ethiopians in battle, including their King, who is Aida’s father. Verdi reveals the general’s love for Aida early in the first act with the tenor showpiece “Celeste Aida.” Giordani gave it a fine performance, commanding the first cheers of the evening.

But, oops! Amneris, daughter of Egypt’s pharaoh, also loves Radames and poor Aida, though of royal blood, is now her slave. Amneris is sung by American mezzo Jill Grove, and her triumphant moments come in the final act, when she skillfully navigates duets and solos.

Verdi’s music is particularly magnificent throughout this opera, though there were some ragged moments between the chorus and the orchestra, led by Italian conductor Renato Palumbo. Truth be told, the endless procession of Egyptian nobles and Ethiopian slaves in the grandest of grand opera-style becomes tedious after a while. But the dancing Egyptians are great fun, with their stylized hands and amazing leaps.

The opera is 3 and a half hours long, but Radvanovsky is almost always on stage, and she’s worth every minute.

“Aida” runs through March 25 at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. The cast changes in March with Chinese soprano Hui He as Aida and Italian tenor Marco Berti as Radimes. For tickets, call 312-332-2244 or visit lyricopera.org.

Photo by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago