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Small West Side Opera Unleashes a Big “Aida”
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
(front row, left to right) David Clenny, Kimberly Lloyd, Kevin Courtemanche, Galina Ivannikova, Hector Mori & Kristina Malinauskaite (back row) ensemble (missing from photo: Jonathan Green)
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Usually none but the largest of opera companies tackle a grand opera like Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.” Undaunted, the tiny West Side Opera Society presented four double-cast concert performances of this Verdi masterpiece, at Trinity Lutheran Church, on the Upper West Side, to benefit Trinity LGBT Youth Center, and had the singers to justify the undertaking. I attended the final hearing, on February 18, and found that the endeavor proved as triumphant as Radames’ conquering army in Act Two.
David Clenny, the head of the company, in his own tour de force, led this all-but-complete “Aida” from the piano, omitting just the prelude and the ballet music.
Kimberly Lloyd lent the title role a dusky soprano and an easy high C, her “Ritorna Vincitor” marked by urgency, her “O Patria Mia” lush and haunting, and surprised us with a ringing high E-flat to cap the second act. Galina Ivannikova, the sort of powerhouse Amneris that Verdi must have had in mind for the role, gave unstinting commitment from the start and dazzled in particular, as expected, with her searing contribution to the fourth act Judgment Scene—a true treasure! As Radames, West Side fielded Kevin Courtemanche, a sturdy dramatic tenor with bright high notes and the suaveness to handle the most lyrical lines as well. Lloyd, Ivannikova, and Courtemanche’s opening scene trio was the first of many highlights to bring the house down.
Baritone Jonathan Green made an imposing, yet also lyrical, Amonasro. Hector Mori brought a sonorous, inky basso cantante to his dual assignment, singing, almost unbelievably, both Ramfis and the King of Egypt, a neat trick which sometimes involved responding to own counsel. Kristina Malinauskaite, as the high priestess, and Andy Watt, as the messenger, distinguished themselves in these supporting roles and joined the full company in giving us rousing Triumphal Scene ensembles.
Next on the West Side’s agenda is Gaetano Donizetti’s “La Favorita,” in April, starring Ivannikova. Visit the West Side Opera Society on Facebook for further information.


 

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