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DVD Review
Guiseppe VERDI
AIDA opera in four acts
(Recorded at La Scala, Milan in 1985)

Aida……………………………………..Maria Chiara
Radames……………………………… Luciano Pavarotti
Amneris……………………………. Ghena Dimitrova
Amonasro……………………………. Juan Pons
The King of Egypt…………………….. Paata Burchuladze
Ramphis……………………………… Nicolai Ghiaurov
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala conducted by Lorin Maazel.
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 058 [160 mins].

Crotchet £21.95

This 1985 La Scala performance of Aida is a triumph. The long-awaited performance of Luciano Pavarotti as Radames - his first in Italy - was greeted with rapturous applause by the audience, his first aria, the often-recorded 'Celeste Aida', was feted with a full two-minute ovation. His singing ranges triumphantly from his early passionate, patriotic arias, through to his torn and tormented third 'Nile' Act duet in which he tries, in vain, to resist Aida's plea to flee his country, through to his adamant, yet poignant resistance of Amneris at the end of the opera.

Maria Chiara is equally impressive in the title role she is passionate, loving, self-confident yet torn by conflicting loyalties. Her Act III aria as she sings of her love and fond remembrances of her homeland, with that tricky high C, earned her a thunderous ovation and her last radiant duet with Radames is heart-rending. Ghena Dimitrova's Amneris is totally convincing too; you can readily sympathise with her jealousy, softened by her unshaking love in risking her position as a royal princess to save Radames from a horrible death (a pity about that headdress though). Juan Pons and Nicolai Ghiarov both bring mighty voices to their roles. In fact the singing overall is of an exemplary standard and difficult to flaw.

The production is sumptuous. The whole of Act II is a feast for the eye and ear. Commencing with the lilting love song "Chi mai fra gl'inni e i plausi" sung by Amneris and her slaves as she dresses, and the exhilarating slave boys dance; through to the grand spectacle which is the Triumphal March and Ballet. Here the gigantic moving sets are stunning only a shaky carriage drawing Amneris in her spectacular gold plumage costume tends to spoil the illusion. Maazel delivers a majestic performance of Verdi's thrilling music. The concluding fine ensemble singing of Aida, Radames, Amonasro, Amneris and Ramfis in determining the fate of the captured slaves and the King's joining of the reluctant Radames with Amneris thrills too.

Heartily recommended

Ian Lace

But Peter Grahame Woolf is not so sure 

I am unable to enthuse about this, my first DVD. It is a 1986 Radiotelevisione Italiana recording of a live performance at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, complete with applause and bows after items and a prolonged enthusiastic response at the end. The production is highly traditional and the settings grandiose and costly. The spectacle would have been impressive in the opera house but it doesn't work at home. There are dances, with tasteful swaying movements, and the costumes are lavish and eye-catching (apart from the under-dressed soldiers detailed to guard their prisoner, Radames). The acting is rudimentary and bedevilled by close-up exposure, which destroys all illusion or even a sense of theatre. The voices too are close up and Pavarotti, a formidable figure indeed, sings forte most of the time. The final scene is ludicrous; the fugitive Aida returns to share death in her full regalia and the picture here [left]is of the couple in their death throes, immured in the tomb and seen shortly before expiring. It was hard to feel that lack of food or air would figure for a very long time in the vast dungeon built on the Scala's stage. Amneris, in her remorse for their fate, was shown high above in a postage-stamp size insert.

I was quite unable to raise any emotional response, even to the Nile Scene, a long-time favourite. I returned afterwards to listen to some tracks from Aida in 1924 recordings [Nimbus Prima Voce NI 7903] by the distinguished soprano Elisabeth Rethberg, who was described as having portrayed at Covent Garden 'a real, not an operatic personality' - in a different class!

Sound and picture quality are good but not especially remarkable. There are no track ('chapter') timings. Very disappointing and certainly unrepresentative of what DVD has to offer. No star rating attempted.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Ian Lace

Peter Grahame Woolf

no rating applied 

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