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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
Aida (1871)
Maria Chiara (soprano) Aida
Luciano Pavarotti (tenor) Radames
Ghena Dimitrova (mezzo soprano) Amneris
Juan Pons (baritone) Amonasro
Paata Burchuladze (bass) The King of Egypt
Nicolai Ghiaurov (bass) Ramphis
Francesca Garbi (soprano) Priestess
Ernesto Gavazzi (tenor) Messenger
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala conducted by Lorin Maazel
Stage Direction by Luca Roconi, Set Design Mauro Pagano, Video Direction by Derek Bailey
recorded in 1985 at La Scala, Milan (DVD).
ARTHAUS 100 058 [160 minutes]


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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 having.

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 purchase.


John Phillips



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