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Opera: Aida

Royal Opera House, London WC2

    Popular as Aida is, it does seem to have suffered from a tendency for singers to stand at the front of the stage waving their arms around, shrieking.

    The usual David McVicar staples of blood, gore and sex are present in his Royal Opera House production of Verdi's work, but somehow they seem muted and almost perfunctory. Truth be told, it makes for a dull, sober and not remotely shocking spectacle, because, for all the musical virtues of this new run of performances, the cast seems not to have been directed at all, reverting to the traditional standing at the front and waving.

    That said, it is rare to be able to listen to uniformly solid singing in Aida. Roberto Alagna's tenor is no longer the delicate instrument of old, but his voice now gives full heft to Radames. There is no subtlety in his acting, but it is a pleasure nonetheless to listen to him.

    Olga Borodina as Amneris might be in a recording studio for all the effort she makes to interact with the others on stage. But close your eyes and you can enjoy a peerless, rock-steady performance.

    Liudmyla Monastyrska as Aida does at least try to act, but to little avail. She is, though, a star in the making, able to vary her colour, pitch and tone as needed, with a formidably secure voice.

    Fabio Luisi, tipped as the next musical director of New York's Metropolitan Opera, is completely at home and marshalls the musical forces with verve. (Tel: 020 7304 4000)

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