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Sondra Radvanovsky In 'Aida': Opera Singer Assumes Title Role At Last Minute

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In this Feb. 28, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Marcello Giordani is Radames with Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida during their Tuesday evening perfornance in Verdi's
In this Feb. 28, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Marcello Giordani is Radames with Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida during their Tuesday evening perfornance in Verdi's "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Given only a 90-minute walk through earlier in the day, Radvanovsky replaced Violetta Urmana and sang the title role for the first time the at the Met. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Cory Weaver)

NEW YORK -- Sometimes opera performances come together best with little rehearsal.

Having flown in from Toronto the previous night for a costume fitting and given only two hours of coaching earlier in the day, Sondra Radvanovsky sang the title role in Verdi's "Aida" at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time Tuesday.

With gleaming high notes and gorgeous pianissimos, Radvanovsky earned a big ovation from the crowd and appeared happy and relieved after the final curtain.

Radvanovsky has impressed in portrayals of several Verdi heroines, most notably Elena in "I Vespri Siciliani" and Leonora in "Il Trovatore." She sang Aida for the first time at Toronto's Canadian Opera Company in October 2010 and repeated the role of the Ethiopian slave in January and in early February at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. When she arrived in New York on Monday, the Met gave her a DVD of the production to study.

With a rapid vibrato, she is able to soar through the thickest orchestrations. While there were a few sliding pitches, she floated beautiful soft notes in "O patria mia (O, my country)." After that difficult aria, she relaxed. Throughout, she looked completely at ease.

Replacing an ill Violeta Urmana, Radvanovsky was paired with Marcello Giordani, who took over as scheduled as the solider Radames. Sounding a little constricted in "Celeste Aida," his voice opened up and he combined with Radvanovsky for a touching tomb scene. The two also sang together in the Chicago staging.

The rest of the cast was unchanged in this revival of Sonja Frisell's traditional production from 1988, with Stephanie Blythe's fierce, remarkably sung Amneris setting a vocal standard that will be hard to match.

Urmana remains scheduled to sing the final performance of the run Saturday afternoon, which will be broadcast on radio.