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Giuseppe Verdi :Aida
Marco Spotti (Il re), Ildiko Komlosi (Amneris), Violeta Urmana (Aida), Roberto Alagna (Radamès), Giorgio Giuseppini (Ramfis), Carlo Guelfi (Amonasro), Antonello Ceron (Il messaggero), Sae Kyung Rim (La sacerdotessa), Luciana Savignano, Roberto Bolle, Myrna Kamara (Ballet), Corps de Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala - Vladimir Vassiliev (Choreographer), Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Chailly (Conductor), Bruno Casoni (Chorus Master), Franco Zeffirelli (Production and Sets), Maurizio Mellanotti (Costumes), Gianni Mantovanini (Lighting), Patrizia Carmine (TV Director)
Recorded in Milan, Teatro alla Scala (2007) – Running time: 158’
Decca # 074 3209 9 – Booklet in English, French, and German – Subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. High Definition Widescreen

This magnificent document marks the return to Teatro alla Scala di Milano, after an absence of twenty years, of the legendary director/designer Franco Zeffirelli. It is an auspicious occasion. Verdi’s Aida, arguably the grandest of all Italian Grand Operas, places not only the most stringent of musical demands upon the soloists, the chorus, the orchestra and the ballet, it also requires lavish and grandiose stage sets and properties. Franco Zeffirelli, as they say, “pulled out all the stops” on this production. It is simply amazing to behold in its beauty and in its awesome magnitude. It is the Aida of one’s dreams. It is breathtaking in its magical evocation of the Pharaohs of Ancient Memfis. In an age where “minimal” productions or “conceptual” stagings rule the day, this is a shot of pure theatrical adrenaline. The singing, I am happy to say, is of the highest order and I doubt a better cast could be assembled anywhere else on the international stage today. If you are looking for Aida DVD to purchase, this is definitely the one you want.

Violeta Urmana is unsurpassed in this role vocally. There has not been a finer sung Aida since the heyday of Leontyne Price, but Ms. Urmana is unquestionably a true Verdi soprano. Her voice has all of the required heft and thrust which the role demands, and an effortless and penetrating High C, which she uses to thrilling effect in the Nile scene aria, “O patria mia!” Her voice also encompasses a pure and floated pianissimo, which she produces effortlessly and with lots of shimmer.
A great deal has been written about “acting with the voice.” Ms. Urmana is quite gifted in this respect. She colors her voice like a rainbow, unleashing a myriad of emotions from exuberant joy to profound sorrow. She is, in fact, quite extraordinary and can certainly take her place alongside the great Aidas of the past, including, Tebaldi, Callas, Milanov, and Ponselle.

I was frankly surprised by the singing of tenor Roberto Alagna. There had been such a furor in the press about his assumption of the role of Radamès that I was not sure what to expect, and indeed, there is some booing from the balcony during the curtain calls. His singing, however, is solid, thrilling, and extremely well performed.
It does not erase memories of Richard Tucker, Carlo Bergonzi, or Franco Corelli, but one certainly could not find any tenor on the opera house stages of today who could sing this most demanding role with more confidence, and beauty of tone. His voice has lots of squillo and his delivery of all the great and famous phrases was done with style and panache. Mr. Alagna also uses a silvery mezzo voce on the top notes when he so desires and an exquisite full head voice, which he magically employs in the final duet, “O terra addio.” In this duet he matches Ms. Urmana note for note on the pianissimo. The La Scala audience responded with wild acclamation afterwards.

Ildiko Komlosi as Princess Amneris is undoubtedly a mezzo to be reckoned with and she is not about to let Ms. Urmana or Mr. Alagna get the better of her in any scene that she is in. Her voice is rich and powerful from top to bottom, and Verdi constantly takes Princess Amneris from top to bottom. Her second act duet with Aida is hair-raising and she is completely refulgent in the vocal demands of the famous Judgment Scene of Act IV with her voice ascending to a thrilling High Bb at the rousing conclusion.

Carlo Guelfi exhibited a commanding and menacing stage presence as Aida’s father, Amonasro, King of the Ethiopians. His voice is dark, large, and facile. He uses it to great effect as he bullies Aida into submission in the Nile scene. Like Ms. Urmana, Mr. Guelfi sings this role better than any baritone in recent memory. His galvanizing portrayal brings the Nile scene to the high level of dramatic intensity the scene demands. His energy alone elicits the best acting of the evening from Urmana and Alagna.

Giorgio Giuseppini is also memorable as Ramfis the High Priest. His deep basso is profoundly effective in the invocations at the Temple of Vulcan and the inquisition from the depths of the Pyramid in the Judgment Scene.

The choreography of Vladimir Vassiliev, which featured the Corps de Ballet of La Scala and soloist Roberto Bolle, are the highlight of the extravagant Triumphal Scene. Mr. Bolle will certainly catch your eye, and he exhibits so much ‘beefcake” you will wonder how this DVD escaped an R rating. The audience is obviously delighted and applauds him most enthusiastically.

Of course, what really propels this production to the heights it reaches is the inspired and electric conducting of Riccardo Chailly. The orchestra and chorus, who are truly magnificent, respond to his every command. The camera actually catches Maestro Chailly several times expressing his gratitude to the orchestra for their exemplary playing.

The filming of this live performance is superb and the audio quality is thrilling. You might think you were sitting in the front row. I found the whole affair dazzling. I believe you will too!

Micaele Sparacino




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