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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Aida (1871).
Daniela Dessì (soprano) Aida; Fabio Armiliato (tenor) Radamès; Stefano Palatchi (bass) Il Re; Elisabetta Fiorillo (mezzo) Amneris; Roberto Scandiuzzi (bass) Ramfis; Juan Pons (baritone) Amonasro; Josep Fadó (tenor) Messenger; Ana Nebot (soprano) Priestess;
Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu/Miguel Ángel Gómez Martinez
Rec. live at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, on July 21st and 24th, 2003.
LPCM Stereo. DTS Surround. 16:9.
Subtitles in English, French, German and Spanish.
OPUS ARTE OA0894D [2 DVDs: 186’00]



 

Josep Mestres Cabanes was the last of the old Catalan school of scenography, a school that prized realism. Cabanes’ staging of Aida actually dates from 1945, and the sets were recreated and restored for this production, resulting in this visual feast. The effects are achieved by paint on paper, with clever use of perspectives to evoke an imposing Ancient Egypt. Apparently Cabanes worked on his Aida for eight years, and the attention to detail is indeed quite remarkable. Such a naturalistic approach may rub some latter-day producers up the wrong way, but it will surely be greeted with sighs of relief by the many. Try maybe the opening of Act 2 for an example of the lavish nature of these sets, with its impressive Egyptian pillars. Indeed in Act 2 Scene 2 one wonders just how large the stage is given the number of people present (or is this part of the scenographic trickery?).  

Strange that there are overlays in black-and-white of the production team putting up the sets (quite distracting) as the Prelude progresses, especially since Martinez shapes the music so nicely. 

The team of Dessì and Armiliato was reviewed previously in their Tosca DVD (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Oct04/puccini_tosca_benini.htm). The concerns I raised there with Armiliato to a great extent hold here, too; and Dessì remains a potent vocal and dramatic force. No Raimondi here, though, although there are memorable contributions from several cast members. Certainly, this DVD provides substantial improvement over the only other DVD Aida I have reviewed, on Brilliant Classics (http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/May04/Verdi_Aida_Brilliant.htm).  

Elisabetta Fiorillo begins in rather a wide-vibrato-ed fashion. Interestingly, Dessì begins her contribution to the opera with a fair amount of wobble too, but rises to the occasion, culminating in Act 1 with a great entreaty to the gods at ‘Numi, pietà’. Similarly, Fiorillo works into her part so that by Act 4 she is really quite convincing in admitting her love for Radamès, her remorse eminently believable. 

The true test of any Aida/Radamès partnership occurs in the last Act of course, and here it is Dessì that confirms her vocal superiority over Armiliato. The pair do manage to make this a touching farewell, however. 

Juan Pons’ Amonasro is a big-voiced portrayal by a big man with a big presence. He is quite simply superb, making his mark with every note he sings. Roberto Scandiuzzi makes an impressive Ramfis. As the Messenger, Fadò is a bit bleaty on top. Stefano Palatchi’s King on the other hand is very strong. Choral singing is excellent, well-balanced in pianissimo (try Act 1 Scene 2) and impressive at the higher dynamic indications.  

The booklet note dwells long and interestingly on Cabanes’ sets. A pity there are no printed track-listings to help location of favoured moments in the opera, but do not let this put you off. There is much to enjoy here as well as much to stimulate.

Colin Clarke 

 

 



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