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Toscanini - The Television Concerts 1948-52 Vol. 3 - Verdi: Aida

Release Date: 02/14/2006 
Label:  Testament   Catalog #: 1005   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Herva NelliRichard TuckerEva GustavsonGiuseppe Valdengo,   ... 
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw ChoraleNBC Symphony OrchestraRobert Shaw Chorale Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 3 Hours 30 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Watching the two telecasts that make up the 1949 concert performance of Aida can be a decidedly odd experience. Probably it’s best to view these as something of a gloss on the audio release, which, even today, still comes across as a great performance, despite the cavils one repeatedly encounters about many of the soloists. What’s so odd about the viewing experience, especially at the outset, is that the singers tend mostly just to stare straight ahead with their hands clasped in front of them, as if they were singing an oratorio, with absolutely no hint of dramatic interaction. Any attempts to convey the emotional content of the words through facial expression—which, despite some terrific singing, Richard Tucker seems in any event Read more unwilling or unable to attempt, though he does clasp Herva Nelli’s arm during their final duet—are often undermined simply because the soloists never, ever look at each other. For me, it’s Giuseppe Valdengo as Amonasro who manages most strongly to convey a fully formed characterization within the video context. Ironically, though Eva Gustavson does her damnedest to put across what she can during the Judgment Scene of act IV, the camera, which stays with her almost uninterruptedly for the last few minutes of the scene, completely undermines her closing moments by suddenly and jarringly switching to Toscanini. Still, despite any concerns one might have about the purely vocal component of this Aida, there’s no denying the extent to which each of the soloists exemplifies something that’s paramount in every one of Toscanini’s recorded opera performances, namely the primacy at every moment of the words being sung (which is not to say that musical values are compromised as a result; the point is that opera is words and music). I’ve always felt that one could take down nearly the entire libretto just from listening to Toscanini’s opera recordings. The telecast backs this up as well. One last thing to note: in June 1954, Toscanini stood before his NBC Symphony for the last time, for a corrective “patch session” preceding RCA’s release of his Aida and Ballo broadcasts. On that occasion, much of Herva Nelli’s solo music from Aida was re-recorded. The video release, in which her act III aria sounds noticeably uncomfortable, gives us the undoctored audio track.

In general, we see much more of the singers than we do of Toscanini throughout the two Aida telecasts, which is really as it should be; this is, after all, an opera. On the other hand, the extended sequences of Toscanini conducting—as in the “Triumphal Scene” ballet sequence, and during the climactic passages for massed forces later in that scene—are absolutely riveting. In fact, the cumulative power generated in the Triumphal Scene is nothing short of thrilling, heightened even beyond what those of us who cherish the audio release might even have expected. Fortunately, for anyone interested in watching as well as hearing this Aida, Toscanini is present enough that the video nevertheless remains a compelling and valuable document. His head, right shoulder, and right arm are often in view as the camera frames the singers over his shoulder."

FANFARE: Marc Mandel
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Works on This Recording

Aida by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Herva Nelli (Soprano), Richard Tucker (Tenor), Eva Gustavson (Mezzo Soprano),
Giuseppe Valdengo (Baritone), Norman Scott (Bass), Dennis Harbour (Bass)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Shaw Chorale,  NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Italy 
Aida by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Virginio Assandri (Tenor), Eva Gustavson (Mezzo soprano), Dennis Harbour (Bass),
Herva Nelli (Soprano), Norman Scott (Bass), Teresa Stich-Randall (Soprano),
Richard Tucker (Tenor), Giuseppe Valdengo (Baritone)
Conductor:  Arturo Toscanini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  Robert Shaw Chorale Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Italy 

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