Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
Maria Chiara (soprano) - Aida; Carlo Striuli (bass) - Il Re; Dolora Zajick (mezzo) - Amneris; Kristján Jóhannsson (tenor) - Radamès; Juan Pons (baritone) - Amonasro; Nicola Ghiuselev (bass) - Ramfis; Anna Sciatti (soprano) - Una sacerdotessa; Angelo Casertano (tenor) - Un messaggero; Ballet, Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona/Nello Santi
rec. live, Arena di Verona 1992
Stage Director: Gianfranco De Bosio
Set Designer: Rinaldo Olovieri (after Ettore Fagliuoli’s design for the 1913 Verona premiere)
Costume Designer: Auguste Mariette (as at the 1913 Verona premiere)
Lighting Designer: Arnaldo Campolini
Choreography: Susanna Egri
Directed for TV and Video by Gianni Casalino
Sound formats: LPCM Stereo, DD 5.1
Subtitles: GB, DE, FR, ES, IT
Picture format: 4:3
Region code: 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107253 [146:00]
The ideal way of enjoying a performance at the Arena di Veronais to be there, preferably in a good seat in the stalls, where there is a chance also to see the faces of the singers. From the most distant seats the faces are not larger than a pin-head. On video the magnificence of the sets tends to be compromised but you often get close to the singers, which is all to the good - if the singers are good actors. This specific production has its interest primarily for historical reasons: the opportunity to see sets and costumes that are reconstructions of the original production from 1913. I saw the same production twice in the 1980s - the 1913 reconstruction was first shown in 1982 - and since the memory inevitably has dimmed it was nice to revisit it in all its glory. Those who never have been at the Arena will get at least a little of the atmosphere while watching this DVD.
Unfortunately the musical outcome of the visit is less inspiring. Maria Chiara was the Aïda in Italy for many years. Since I first heard her on records in the beginning of the 1970s she has been one of my favourite sopranos. By 1992 her voice had lost some of its bloom and she had developed a vibrato that under pressure became rather disturbing. It’s a pity since she has so deep an insight into the role. There are several places where she shows her class, for instance a heavenly pianissimo in the Nile aria. That said, by and large she is disappointing and her poor acting is a further minus. Those who want Chiara’s Aida are better served by the La Scala production from a few years earlier, conducted by Lorin Maazel with Pavarotti and Dimitrova in good shape as Radames and Amneris. It is available on both CD and DVD. There is also a DVD from Verona 1981 which I haven’t seen, but there she is partnered by the formidable Fiorenza Cossotto and the somewhat stentorian but glorious Niccola Martinucci. Cossotto and Martinucci were regulars at Verona for many years. Stentorian is also the word for the Icelandic tenor Kristján Johannsson, who sings Radamès on the present issue. In a few places, notably the duet in act III, he attempts to sing softly but otherwise it’s full throttle. He too is a stiff and unconvincing actor. In that respect Dolora Zajick’s Amneris is better and vocally she is in fine fettle though her big voice is sometimes afflicted by a wobble. Juan Pons, another big-voiced singer, is a magnificent Amonasro, but I wish he could have been more lyrical in his solo in the triumph scene. Nicola Ghiuselev is a strong Ramfis with a lot of stage presence. Carlo Striuli’s King is more strained than I have heard him before but he sings and acts with great authority.
There is a fair amount of shaky ensemble in the orchestra, noticeable not least in the prelude, and Nello Santi’s conducting is only routine. In short, there are many reasons to avoid this issue.
Many reasons to avoid this issue.
see also reviews by Paul Corfield Godfrey and Robert Farr