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Verdi: Aida [Blu-ray] [Alemania]
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G.Verdi (1813-1901) : Aida, opéra en quatre actes sur un livret d'Antonio Ghislanzoni d'après une intrigue d'Auguste-Edouard Mariette. Ferzan Ozpetek, mise en scène Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Florence, 2011 Système NTSC - Code région : 0 - 151 min
Mehta and the singers, May Festival voices and instruments make this performance that should satisfy even though others may have starrier casts. --IRR, Mar'12
Hui He is a moving Aida, Luciana D'Intino an imperious Amneris. --Richard Fawkes, Opera Now
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The sets are elegant, if not outright grandiose. Particularly worthy of mention is the lighting and make-up for the singers.
In the vocal cast, D'Intino as Amneris is to be considered as a late reprisal, the former one being made on DVD in 1996! While not as vocally fresh as she then was, her singing is still a tour de force in the category of Verdian mezzo-soprano.
As the hero Radames, Berti sings everything right. Not nearly one single instance of vocal misjudgment could be evident. That said, his voice is not the most beautiful of Verdian tenors, but his characterisation is still fully convincing.
As Amonasro, Maestri is perhaps the most vocally (and visually) convincing member of the male cast. Prestia as Ramfis runs close to him in the low male-voice category.
In the title role, Chinese soprano Hui He gives a truly convincing portrayal of Aida. Her timbre is lyrical and expressive, full in the middle to low register, and burnished in the top register. Hui He characterises Aida as the faithful lover, the dutiful daughter, the patriotic princess, and most importantaly, the tragic heroine who would sacrifice even her life for love. All these traits she nmanages to portray with her highly effective vocal acting.
The ensemble work of this performance is also beautifully done.
If we but have three similarly effective lead singers, this would be a truly top rate performance.
It's popularity was such that Verdi, already a wealthy man became a very wealthy man. It is one lovely melody after another and as an opera is one of Verdi's most conservative and conventional. From it's opening music for Radames "Celeste Aida"(a conventional aria type) grand scale ceremonial scenes, large scale multi-sectioned duets (there are several), lack of character development (with the possible exception of Amneris) this is a highly conservative score. There is however one radical element that is the key to its popularity -"local color". This is the ambiance in harmony and instrumentation that constantly reafirms its exotic locale. As one critic put it "if this isn't what Egyptian music sounded like, it should have."
My history with Aida starts with grandmother's wind-up Victrola and the cactus needles with Tetrazzini and Caruso etc. My first opera Aida- Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli in the 1950s. Both were beautiful people that looked the part and sang superbly (a rare combination). Since then I've seen dozens of staged versions and have had dozens and dozens of 78s, LPs, CDs and DVDs and now blu-rays. There are many excellent productions available and this disc is one of them.
The key to success of this disc is the conductor Zubin Mehta. I've seen him conduct for years: symphonies and operas and they have always come out as excellent. In this production the first act was a bit slow to gel and you could see it on his face. The second, third and fourth were much better and the total effect was a great experience.
The principals were Italian leaders in the field with the exception of the Aida, Hui He. She may be oriental but she sang a very excellent, very italianate rendition of this taxing role. A great, smooth voice, she was able to project through chorus and orchestra with unfailing clarity.
The Amneris of Luciana D'Intino was another triumph. She is an experienced singer with a good mezzo command and developed her part very well. Amneris is the lynch-pin of the whole drama; it is her jealousy that sets the tragedy in motion and she is left with the ultimate remorse. Luciana carried the day with verve.
The male parts were for the most part well done. Marco Berti is a big-chested Italian tenor in the Pavarotti mode. He sings well but certainly doesn't look the part of a heart throb. His "terra adio" duet with He was a beautiful and a fit ending for a wonderful opera experience. Ambrogio Maestri seems to be all over the place these days. His recording of Falstaff is a hit and he is doing it at the Met. He makes an impresive Amonasro. He looks like he could lead an army of ruffians. Giacomo Prestia sounded better as Ramfis than he has in several recent performances. His wobble was under control.
This 2011 recording is worth getting and playing again and again. And add it to the several other recordings that you have. Each is good in its way.
My favorite DVD? 1981 Arena di Verona. Maria Chiara - a really good Aida and looked the part. Fiorenza Cossotto great- you could really learn to hate her. Nicola Martinucci he really looks like a Radames and sang it well too! And the production was stupendous. No budget restraints as this one did. Cast of hundreds! Gold everywhere! I and about 12,000 other people really enjoyed it. It defined GRAND OPERA.
That's disappointing from a musical point of view, particularly as we have as distinguished a musical director as Zubin Metha conducting the orchestra, for if there's at least one thing you would hope to count on from any production of Aida, it's that it presents a vigorous account of Verdi's dynamic score. Aida is one of the most melodic and memorable of late Verdi operas, with hints of grand opera influence, but it's also one that is attuned to the emotional content of the drama with an exotic flavour for its Egyptian setting. The performance initially feels somewhat perfunctory, for the first Act at least, a run-through with no real commitment on the part of the musicians or the conductor. It improves in subsequent acts, warming to the characters and their situation, but there's never a sense that Metha is able to get the orchestra to do full justice to the dynamic theatricality of Verdi's majestic score.
If that's the case - and it's only my opinion - it's at least in step with the lack of dynamism elsewhere in the production. The stage sets, designed by Dante Ferretti, look marvellous - grand statues and monuments bathed in golden light, with colourful sunsets and deep blue moonlit night scenes - and the costumes are traditional and exotic. Stage director Ferzan Ozpetek however is unable to find anything for the singers do on stage but stand and project out to an audience, while priests and choruses stand grouped or march in solemn procession. There's no question of there being any acting involved. Only once is there a suggestion of anything with imagination and that occurs briefly when the traditional pomp and patriotic fervour of the Triumphal March is initially undercut by the appearance on the stage of a young bloodstained child, looking bewildered by the celebration of the slaughter that has occurred. It's a throwaway touch however, soon forgotten under the more traditional, but not particularly imaginatively choreographed battle ballet that follows.
Again, a lack of drama or ideas on the stage wouldn't be much of a problem - it's one of the issues with Aida - if only the singers were capable of making up for the slack elsewhere. Unfortunately, there's not much in the way of strong singing to sufficiently redeem this production. Marco Bertii has a fine tone of voice as Radamès, but his technique is all off and his 'Celeste Aida' is a struggle. He comes through however in Act IV where it counts. Luciana D'Intino is a weak Amneris, her singing shrill and unpleasant, without sufficient force or personality to carry the role - an unfortunate drawback, since it's this character who has perhaps the most important central role in the opera. Hui Hei's Aida is about the best there is here, her Act III duets coming over well, particularly her duet with a fine Ambrogio Maestri as Amanasro. Without a strong enough Amneris however to hammer home Act IV after the rallying that comes through from the cast and orchestra in Act III, it's all to little avail.
There are no extra features on the Blu-ray, so the single-layer BD25 is generally fine for the two-and-a-half hour opera. The image quality is excellent throughout, 1080i full-HD, with only a little sign of compression artefacts during a couple of faster pans of the camera. The audio tracks are the customary PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 and there's a decent tone and clarity to both. Subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean. The disc is All Region.