This Aida has one of the most spectacular and lavish Triumphal March scenes that I have ever seen - not really surprising from San Francisco Opera, it is what one would expect from them and they certainly deliver. Coupled to the monumental sets this is a truly impressive visual production. Its greatest strength, however, lies in its cast. Four great singers provide a musical feast. Margaret Price is supreme in the beauty of her singing as Aida, Pavarotti is at his finest as Radames, Simon Estes is just magnificent as Amonasro and Stefania Tocsyska is fascinating as Amneris, vocally excellent but presenting a strikingly different character to the usual, statuesque and imposing she portrays an intelligent and cunning woman, a true schemer. I agree with the previous reviewer that neither Price nor Pavarotti are great actors, but there is nonetheless a truth in their performances, especially when they are together. In the final analysis, with such lovely singing, I am happy to ignore any acting defects. Tocsyska and Estes are excellent actors so this performance is not at all wooden and has plenty of drama.
The huge moving columns are sometimes a bit distracting but they do form believable settings for the action. With an excellent orchestra and chorus this is the type of Aida one wishes to see, but in my experience opera houses so often disappoint with their productions, either having one or more unsatisfactory singers or merely skimping on the lavishness of the production. This performance from San Francisco scores highly on both aspects and is my favourite production of all those that I have seen so far. I now also have the highly praised Metropolitan Opera DVD of this opera and good as that is, it does not match this one for sheer quality of singing, especially as the Metropolitan production has a much less satisfactory Amonasro than the almost ideal Simon Estes in this San Francisco production.