NEW YORK — With a big shimmering sound, Liudmyla Monastyrska was the chief attraction of the Metropolitan Opera's revival of Verdi's "Aida."
The 37-year-old Ukrainian soprano made her Met debut in the opening performance of the run Friday night and displayed something of a rarity these days – a dramatic voice capable of filling the Met in a core Verdi role.
Her high notes were thrilling as the Ethiopian princess who is enslaved. She showed her voice's steel in "Ritorna vincitor (Return a conqueror)" and its warmth during "O patria mia (O, my country)."
Since her start at the Ukraine National Opera 16 years ago, she has built her career slowly and made her debut at London's Royal Opera last year as Lady Macbeth. Given the dearth of singers who can perform these parts at the 4,000-capacity Met, she is a singer to watch. She is scheduled for more Aidas and Santuzza at the Met in future seasons.
As for her acting, it's hard to judge in Sonja Frisell's 1988 production, which is of the "park and bark" variety. Singers appear on stage, plant and wave their arms.
Her Radames was Carl Tanner, filling in for an ill Marco Berti. Tanner, whose only previous performance in the house was a lone Dick Johnson two years ago in Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)," also has a big voice, but his tenor can lack color when pushed and becomes a bit blustery. Still, he was convincing in his "Celeste Aida."
Olga Borodina was a powerful Amneris, the Pharaoh's daughter and Aida's rival for Radames' love, and Alberto Mastromarino was a blunt-voiced Amonasro, the Ethiopian rule and Aida's father.
Bass Miklos Sebestyen, also making his debut, was imposing as The King, and bass Stefan Kocan was terrifying as the high priest Ramfis.
Frisell's staging, which fills the big Met stage, earns applause for Gianni Quaranta's picturesque sets and several prancing horses during the Triumphal March.
There are nine more performances through Dec. 28, some with different casts. Roberto Alagna sings Radames on Dec. 12 and 15, the latter a Saturday matinee that will be televised live to theaters around the world.