'Aida' Reviews: a Difference

I have a distressing problem. Can you tell me which guy had a bad night when he reviewed Opera Pacific's "Aida" on Saturday night? I rely on Martin Bernheimer (The Times) and James Chute (Orange County Register) exclusively for all of my musical advice: who's singing well, who the bums are, where I should spend my ticket money.

On opening night, Mr. Bernheimer and Mr. Chute sat in the same row, just down from my $135 seat. But I am confused. They are experts but seemed to be watching two different performances. To wit:

On the performances:

Bernheimer: "Worthy in most respects of a major, serious yet cautious company."

Chute: "Operatic equivalent of costume jewelry."

On Dolora Zajic (the mezzo, Amneris):

Bernheimer: "Virtually stole the show. . . . The wide vocal range of the role posed hardly a problem for her. . . . She may well be the dramatic mezzo for whom the world has been waiting."

Chute: "Young singer . . . had serious control problems . . . would lose control and everything but scream her part."

On Andrew Smith (Aida's father, Amonasro):

Bernheimer: "A crude, rough-voiced Amonasro."

Chute: "Sang superbly."

On John Mauceri (conductor):

Bernheimer: "Inspired exceptionally sensitive playing from the Opera Pacific Orchestra. . . . Shaped the drama with poise and introspective deliberation. He cited Verdi's specific metronome markings. . . . For the most part, the loss of impetuosity was counterbalanced by a gain in majesty."

Chute: "He was not completely up to the task. . . . His large-scale plans were defeated by the details of coordination. . . . Played like a disparate group of free-lance musicians."

If I can't trust my music critics, how will my musical tastes ever be properly formed?


Laguna Niguel

Hammond is vice chairman of Opera Pacific's board of directors and is appearing in "Aida" as an extra.

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