Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
Aida – Hui He
Radames – Marco Berti
Amneris – Andrea Ulbrich
Amonasro – Ambrogio Maestri
The King – Roberto Tagliavini
High Priestess – Antonella Trevisan
A messenger – Antonello Ceron
Arena di Verona Ballet
Arena di Verona Chorus and Orchestra
Daniel Oren, conductor
Gianfranco De Bosio, stage director
Recorded live at Arena di Verona, June 2012
- Cast gallery
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0
Subtitles: English, French, German, Japanese
Running time: 150 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
For those of you (of us?) who are somewhat exhausted by Regie productions and long for some “good-old-day” or other, here is an Aida your grandmother would have appreciated. In fact, the sets are a reproduction of the original 1913 sets as they first appeared at the Arena di Verona, where this performance also takes place. It’s quite glorious.
The original designer, Auguste Mariette, was a world-famous Egyptologist, and along with Camille du Locle, created sets and costumes as echt-Egyptian as possible. The temples and archways and columns and palm trees somehow fit brilliantly among the stones of the preserved Roman amphitheater, and the abundance of hieroglyphics, pyramids, and obelisks—all huge—are the dream of an armchair traveler at the start of the last century who had seen photos or drawings of Egypt. It still works—this is what Franco Zeffirelli would create if he could get away with it. With its brilliant colors, dancers with white fans, harpists in gold playing gold harps, this is a feast for the old-fashioned, museum-going eye. Gianfranco de Bosio is the director, and, for better or worse, he has probably also recreated the manner in which the cast in 1913 acted: hand to head, hand to heart, arms outstretched.
And while we’ve certainly heard better performances, we’ve also heard far worse. Daniel Oren’s leadership is lacking in subtlety; he prefers the opera’s gigantic, public moments to its more frequent one-on-one, intimate spots. The orchestra plays well and the chorus is sensational. At one point during the Triumphant Scene there are literally hundreds of people on stage; two ballets take place at once for a while (Susanna Egri is credited) and the comings and goings are beautifully handled. But bear in mind that this is a big, loud Aida, save for a few delicate moments from a singer or two.
Hui He is one of the world’s Aidas of choice, and there’s no denying that’s she’s got the goods. Her ability to spin a Verdian line is never in doubt and she can trace lovely, high pianissimos. Strangely, she’s invariably “on” with the “money notes”, the high notes that most fans wait for and the public remembers, but elsewhere she’ll sing off-pitch or simply wrong notes. It doesn’t ruin her performance (and it’s less in evidence than it was on her Arthaus DVD), and if she were to conquer that technical flaw and pay real attention to the text, rather than the occasional phrase, she’d be a truly great Aida.
Marco Berti, similarly, has a true Verdi tenor as Radames. A voice of good size and weight and fine diction make up for an almost all forte delivery; in the final scene, perhaps inspired by his Aida, he sings sweetly. His acting is, well, made for a huge space. Andrea Ulbrich is an impressive Amneris without a well-placed top couple of notes—they seem to come from elsewhere and not always reliably. But she’s part of the game here and tosses herself about with abandon. Ambrogio Maestri, who looks as if he could stomp the Egyptians to death if he wanted to, sings and acts a monumental Amonasro. Francesco Ellero D’Artegna’s Ramfis is impressively martial and judgmental.
Oh yes, four white horses bow, à la Dressage, to the King, Ramfis, and public during the Triumphal Scene. What more do you need? 3-D? Also available. But for the finest video Aida you’ll still have to turn to the Met’s from 1989 with Aprile Millo and Placido Domingo, under Levine.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Aida by Giuseppe Verdi
Antonello Ceron (Tenor),
Ambrogio Maestri (Baritone),
Andrea Ulbrich (Mezzo Soprano),
Hui He (Soprano),
Marco Berti (Tenor),
Antonella Trevisan (Mezzo Soprano),
Roberto Tagliavini (Bass)
Verona Teatro Arena Orchestra,
Verona Teatro Arena Chorus
Written: 1871; Italy
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