This performance is now released in tandem with La
Traviata from the Glyndebourne production of 1988. Arthaus is issuing
various pairs of DVDs at a reduced price. Sometimes offers such as these
are very much curate’s eggs, but this pair is excellent. If you wish
to have both these operas on DVD, don’t hesitate; they are well worth
In this performance, the sets are absolutely superb,
simple, but very effective, as well as being appropriate to the action.
The scenes set in the desert are plain backdrops, with just enough detail
to make them interesting. Where we come to the triumphal march, there
are models of the sphinx and other such artefacts which provide the
right amount of spectacle to add to the musical drama, rather than to
take it over as happens in some productions.
Now to the main aspects of this release: the singing
and acting of the cast. Musically this production is very impressive,
held together with fire and passion by Lorin Maazel in charge of the
La Scala Orchestra, this time on good form, with all sections of the
orchestra acquitting themselves well for their conductor.
Luciano Pavarotti is the undoubted star of this production
with his voice in very good heart and his bulk (in 1987) not sufficient
to restrict his movements around the stage. Pavarotti is however Pavarotti,
not Radames and he tends to stand and sing rather than to get caught
up in the action. I must emphasise that I did not feel that this is
a failing, particularly as his voice is in magnificent form.
Maria Chiara is a very attractive Aida, with clear
if just a little strident voice, but complementing her Radames perfectly.
The two main characters perform very well, and make this set very attractive.
The other main characters offer no major criticism at all, complementing
the principals perfectly. Ghena Dimitrova is outstanding, except I was
a little distracted by her headgear, which reminded me vaguely of Pat
Evans of Eastenders fame.
Verdi’s opera was written as a result of a commission
from the Khedive of Egypt, Ismael Pasha. Rigoletto was performed
earlier to commission the Opera House in Egypt and as a result of the
opening of the Suez Canal. Verdi was inspired by the atmosphere of the
Nile and environs. His opera has been a firm favourite ever since.
The sound quality is very good without being outstanding,
with stable and well balanced video quality. The only problem I experienced
with this DVD was a number of short momentary lapses of silence in the
soundtrack throughout the performance which may be worth checking before