This is a repackaging but not remastering of the earlier EMI release of this recording.Conventional wisdom has the Muti as top recommendation, and it has received the benefit of EMI's "ART" remastering rather this recording. While the Muti is indeed superb, this set seems to me to be even finer. Karajan could always be relied upon to bring something special to "the old warhorses" of the repertoire, and in this Aida we get a radically different reading from his earlier Decca recording. Tempi are swifter, the drama is more biting, the VPO play every note with authority and passion-and Karajan's penchant for lighter voices reallys dividends in this case.
Freni sounds sexy but vulnerabe, pitiable then noble-and sings every note with commitment and beautiful accurate tone. Baltsa is by turns the consummate firebrand, then the remorseful loser in this highly scented drama! The real surprise is Carreras-his open-throated, firm voiced Radames with firm tone supported by superb technique is a triumph, and his intelligent use of the text (as ever) conveys the innonence of the noble warrior blinded by love and oblivious to the maelstrom he is creating around him which will ultimately consume him. The "heavy brigade" of Raimondi, Cappucilli etc are superb-and then there is Karajan, weaving musical magic with every phrase. Listen to the orchestral passage at the first entry of the King-the weight and power-and the scene with Radames swearing loyalty to the Preists is simply breathtaking. The recording is actually very good-but could be even better if remastered using the most modern techniques. This does not seem likely any time soon! For me,despite the undoubted merits of the Muti (and Solti, and Leinsdorf, and Mehta etc..)this is the most accomplished and most effective-and enjoyable-Aida of them all. 5 Stars Plus. Stewart Crowe.