Verdi's Aida comes thrillingly to life in this splendid production from the Metropolitan Opera. Aprile Millo is in excellent voice in the title role and sings with great musicality throughout. Indeed this sense of musical values being the most important is reflected in the fine performances of the rest of this all star cast most notably Placido Domingo and Dolora Zajick as Radames and Amneris respectively. The production is old fashioned but attractive and the physical acting is rudimentary but the vocal acting gets prizes all round.
This was a favourite performance for me on video and is now excellently transferred onto DVD (sub titles optional). First rate.
on 31 January 2010
Great singing and a spectacular production by Sonja Frisell marks this DVD. But it is on the old side and the picture is often slightly fuzzy - especially in the long distance takes. Maybe it is time that this excellent production get a technical make-over. The sound is remarkably good.
on 11 September 2012
I first wrote this review in the US in February, 2001 and having now seen a number of Aida's in the theatre and on DVD/Bluray over the following 12 years, I note that my views are still the same. In fact I first saw this on TV in the 1980s and I still think it is the best Aida I've seen or heard.
I have seen a number of Aida's but would have sold my soul to have see this one live at the Met. However, I watched Dolora Zajick's Amneris at Covent Garden and she was as wonderful as her portryal here - at the House I shouted myself hoarse at her portrayal - mind you I did too when I watched this DVD.
Domingo is perfect as Radames and Aprile Millo has done nothing better. What an emotional scene it is when Amonasro (Sherrill Milnes) holds his chained hands up in in passion at the climax of Act II.
The sound and picture are perfect - the production is exemplary - this is the best Aida you are likely to see or hear. I emplore you to buy it. You really will not regret it.
on 10 October 2010
This is a production to impress, and it certainly does. A shot below the facade of the Metropolitan Opera with the fountains, opens the film, and pans to James Levine conducting the overture. With the opening notes from the High Priest (Paata Burchuledze) a distance shot shows the massive set and backdrop with all of the monumental scale of the Egyptian Temple of Karnak.
Placido Domingo as Radames Captain of the Guards, appears in close up in gilt armour, performing his opening aria with his customary passion and commitment, which he maintains throughout,until the final note of the Opera when he is entombed with Aida.
Dolora Zajick is a formidable and passionate Amneris, daughter of the king of Egypt, in love with Radames, and the bitter rival of Aida.
Aprile Millo makes her dramatic entry in white robes with bronze-gilt attatchments, as Aida the Ethiopian slave, and pours the passion of a lifetime into the beautiful "ritorna vincitor" scene where she is torn between the love of her father and country, and love for Radames, an Egyptian.
Sherrill Milnes plays Amonasro, Aida's father and king of Ethiopia, a pardonned prisoner plotting revenge.
Dimitri Kavrakos is Il Re dell Egitto (king of Egypt), and Margaret Jane Wray is the ceremonial Priestess.
Although this is a film of a staged performance various film techniques enhance the action, such as temple and victory processions, and close up views being superimposed and faded into each other. The performers take a bow in front of the curtain at the end of each Act, and there is appreciative applause at the end of the impressive solos. So here are the best of both stage production, and film, directed by Brian Large and produced by Peter Gelb.It was an Emmy award winner 1989-90 for an outstanding Classical Programme in the Performing Arts.
Obviously there is some artistic license, but the inventiveness and authenticity of the costumes is remarkable, for the Metropolitan Ballet, Chorus, and Soloists alike. The sound quality is vibrant, from the muted string passages and the celleste to the dominant trumpet Victory March.
There are optional subtitles, and this NTSC DVD, comes with a 25 page synopsis with production photographs, in English, German, and French. A pure delight.
on 5 July 2014
Gets off to a good start with excellent sound and a massive sets. Domingo "Celeste Aida" immediately takes the ear.
Dolora Zajick as Amneris has a metallic edge to her mezzo and is really impressive in her lower range.
April Millo is a clear soprano, but has problems of expression, somewhat lacking in light and shade, and lacks something in the acting stakes.
In scene 2 Margaret Jane Wray is a beautifully voiced High Priestess, and Burchuladze also impresses, the temple set is very well done.
Amneris apartment is rather nice, and the dancers who entertain her are very spirited'
In scene 2 of act two Grand Marches do not come much grander than this, what one can do with massive sets and countless extras.
The expansive sets continue to the banks of the nile, and Sherrill Milnes comes into his own as Aida's father.
In act 4 Dolores Zajick gives an impassioned performance as Amneris goes through a whole range of emotions. I think that this is probably the best role in this opera. Only Luciana D'Intino in the Royal Opera House can top her.
The internment scenes played on two levels is rather effective, but there are more sensitive renderings of the final duet.
The picture quality is rather fuzzy throughout, but one does get used to it, after all it is 1989 production.
The accompanying booklet is comprehensive with timings and synopses.
There's only one word for this and that's - Epic! Just check out the triumphant return of Radames at the beginning of Act two, Scene two. The set is amazing, as is the number of people on the stage - soldiers, captives, priests, servants, Royalty, Gods, horses, chariots and of course Verdi's music! I've never seen a stage so full or more occupied - only in a motion picture!
Yes, some of the scenes are a little long-winded IMHO, the picture quality is a little poor at times too, as is some parts of the acting - it's a shade limp or lacks true / required passion in some quarters - Zajick & Domingo suffer a little bit at times of this , but overall, the singing is lovely, as is the score. The storyline is very good with quite a dark ending! I note some said the opera had a rather `dated' feel, I know what they meant, it was a bit Anthony & Cleopatra, Ben Hur, but it is a period piece, so I'm not sure how one would get around that?
The star for me was Aprile Millo (Aida), though all the main players did a pretty good job.
My favourite Verdi piece will always be Rigoletto, this of course is an entirely different kettle of fish, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it was slightly exhausting at getting on for 3 hours!
on 5 April 2014
'Aida' is not my favourite Verdi opera,' Ballo in Maschera' and' Don Carlos' get my vote there. I do enjoy this production, though, as it is so well sung and acted, by most of the cast. It was an Emmy award winner that year and is a powerful production. I find my greatest enjoyment at the end though, in Act 4, starting with the Radames /Amneris confrontation. Here Domingo and Zajick are amazing, their chemistry is wonderful, better than between Domingo and Millo I think. Millo has a beautiful voice but Zajick is the finer actress and Domingo responds in kind to this, there is real electricity between them ! Then follows the very moving scene in the tomb with Amneris sobbing' Pace' as they slowly die. Again the singing is stunning here, especially Millo, with her floating pianissimos, I'm usually in tears at the end of this. So even if parts of this opera aren't perfect, be prepared to be blown away by Act 4. I haven't seen other productions but I doubt if the scene between Domingo and Zajick can be bettered.
on 17 May 2014
This opera must be one of the most spectacular in the repertoir and both set and constume designers have done an excellent job. The grandeur of the massive Egyptian-style statues fully meets expectations and the vocals are performed and enhanced with such a legendary singing star as Placido Domingo. That said, I was particularly impressed with Dolora Zajick as Amneris, who brought to the role the haughtiness, jealousy and scorn that was required. Also there was no skimpimg on the extras whose large numbers must have been a nightmare for the wardrobe department. The instrumental music was suitably dynamic under the expert baton of James Levine who with the aid of the talented orchestra put in a fine performance.
on 29 June 2012
One of my favourite operas.
Picture quality 3 - a bit grainy. 4-3 aspect ratio.
Sound quality 2 - too much tremble on the high notes for solo arias. Duets, trios and the chorus are ok.
Sets 5 - spectacular large Egyptian pharaoh type sets. They come out of the ceiling and floor. Very impressive!
Music making (orchestra) 4
Acting 3 - very 'wooden' lacking passion and emotion.
Direction (camera work) 5
Singing 5 - Aida 4, Amneris 5, Radames 4, High Priest 5, Amanasro 5 and chorus 5.
Costumes 5 - Egyptian pharaoh type period costumes.
Avoid if the quality of sound recording of the solo aria is important to you. This spoiled it for me.
on 26 July 2010
This is an absolutely traditional production of Aida, entirely true to the era of the story and with the monumental and spectacular sets typical of the Metropolitan Opera. The costumes are excellent and we are treated to a real triumphal march complete with horses and chariot, though it is not as imaginative as it might be, consisting largely of a great number of people trooping across the stage in various guises. This is really the only significant weakness of the production, it is so traditional and predictable that there is really no excitement such as one gets from productions with something new and interesting to present.
The music throughout is excellent. There are places where Levine's typically slow pacing makes familiar sections drag a little but this is a minor problem with the orchestra in great form and such a cast of excellent principals. Outstanding are Aprile Millo as Aida, Dolora Zajick as Amneris and Placido Domingo as Radames, all of whom give dramatic performances with huge voices but also have the experience and sheer vocal quality to provide many moments of great musicality and drama with subtle and restrained singing when appropriate. The only relative disappointment amongst the four main principals is Sherrill Milnes as Aida's father Amonasro. He never seems comfortable in the role of the Ethiopian king and he does not appear to be in great vocal form. Perhaps most surprisingly from this very dramatic operatic performer is that his acting often appears stilted and not at all believable. It is true that this is not a natural role for him, but Aprile Millo is surprisingly wonderful in a role that one might have thought would not be natural for her. The role of Ramfis, the High Priest, is played by Paata Burchuladze and it is very welcome to have someone of his calibre with such a huge rich bass voice playing this character. He is not always subtle but is unfailingly effective as the dominating and bloodthirsty priest.
Overall this is certainly a great production, if rather uninspired. Its greatest strength lies in the vocal contributions of the three leading principals and Ramfis. It does not, however, equal the vocal quality of the 1981 production from San Francisco with Pavarotti and Margaret Price, especially as that production has the advantage of the ideal casting of Simon Estes as Amonasro.