Verdi AIDA, Met 14.10.2005; Conlon; Crider, Zajick, Licitra, Ataneli, Burchuladze, Robinson.
At the Met Aida, foghorn Dolora Zajick sings with an abundance of chest Arnold Schwarzenegger (or Pamela Anderson) would envy: some earthy, near-vulgar tones, but mostly of the kind of elegance we know from the Simionato amethyst. No top notes are cheated, no fortes passed; her legato melts any plastic occurring elsewhere on stage. How can Zajick, an awesome hurricane by all measure, breathe a delicate petal into the three sets of 'Ah! Vieni, amor mio' that open Act II (passages easy to overlook, taken with the rest of Amneris's stupendous music)? The miracle is that a towering structure of a sound is easily pliable into flowers swaying in a soft breeze. Meanwhile, her Judgement Scene is the purest form of mezzo-sex one can ever have at such a public place: hear her subdue the bass-thundering orchestra with the third 'pieta' (a low F-sharp), her entire body resonating with the wood of the stage, and you'd feel like you're touching yourself. You say "where dat gerl f*ing hide dat microphone?" and your jaw drops and you're like "who sez Italian opera's dead?" Then, she turns around and pumps fuel in all cylinders to release and sustain a T-bone steak of a high A-natural bright and buoyant, which in my so accurate accounting she held longer than all recent Met mezzos' high A combined. Moments like these are why we get out of bed in the morning.
[Elsewhere, the Aida of the evening, Michele Crider, isn't doing well: major swaths of her register are hollow and fake, and during agitated moments in Aida's music (scenes with Amneris and Amonasro), she reveals a tired instrument patched up with eclectic sounds and shrieks. Moments of repose (O Patria mia; various Numi pieta's) find her in more agreeable territory. She sounded much healthier the last time I heard her (a year ago?). Salvatore Licitra, the fourth tenor (or the fourth tenor to be the fourth tenor?), debuting the role of Radames in New York, has a huge voice, capable of moments of beauty, power, and (faux-)elegance, but somehow can't sustain the polish throughout the evening. Paata Burchuladze (Ramfis) seems to have swallowed more than a mouthful of glass marbles ('nuf said). Lado Ataneli (Amonasro) matches Crider's bartered notes, bar by bar. Alas, the little sparkle in the rough comes from a big guy, Morris Robinson (Il Re), with a gorgeous bass able to float and glide around the cave of the Met like a soprano's pp (imagine that).]
Brava Dolora Zajick, Erda of Amsterdam Avenue.