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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you want from a traditional Aida
Although there is an intimate and tragic love story at its heart, Aida is set against the exotic background of the Egypt of the Pharaohs, and is full of patriotic, nationalistic sentiments, as the Egyptian army prepare to go to war to fight off a revolt by the Ethiopians. It's a perfect subject, in other words, for Verdi, and it was undoubtedly the nature of the...
Published on 5 Aug. 2011 by Keris Nine

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starring Franco Zeffirelli
This blu-ray is incorrectly subtitled as "Starring Violeta Urmana and Roberto Alagna". The correct subtitle should be "Starring Franco Zeffirelli and Franco Zeffirelli".

Despite the riot of coloured viscose and polyester the staging is exquisite, with all the Zeffirelli glitter one expects. However, this blu-ray suffers from the most awful video editing that...
Published on 20 July 2011 by Mr. Mark R. Irving


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you want from a traditional Aida, 5 Aug. 2011
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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Although there is an intimate and tragic love story at its heart, Aida is set against the exotic background of the Egypt of the Pharaohs, and is full of patriotic, nationalistic sentiments, as the Egyptian army prepare to go to war to fight off a revolt by the Ethiopians. It's a perfect subject, in other words, for Verdi, and it was undoubtedly the nature of the storyline, much more than any commission for the new opera house in Cairo (which he repeatedly refused) or the grand occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal, that encouraged him to return to opera composition in 1871, and he would return in style with a magnificent work.

Considering its origins and its setting - whether it was composed for a grand occasion or not - Verdi's Aida is appropriately stately in its expressions of nationalistic pride and identity, with extravagant marches, battle hymns, ceremonial processions and dances. There's no point in doing Aida in a minimalist style, as Robert Wilson has done in the past (although it's certainly interesting to see something different attempted) - this is an opera that just calls out for a grand scale production. If you haven't got a stage the size of the Arena di Verona, and a director like Franco Zeffirelli to fill it, the nearest grand, traditionally staged Aida you are going to find is this Sonja Frisell production - now over twenty years old - for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

It's a big production in every respect - and yes, I include the size of the singers in this - with towering temples, the stage filled with chorus, troops, dancers and well-tanned, bare-chested slaves, even horses and chariots, all arranged in grand ceremonial processions and formations. It's unfortunately a little too static - an impressive spectacle even if it is a little bit kitsch, but not much thought has been put into the interaction between the main players. They just walk on in most cases, sing their part, and walk back off again. But, this is what you expect of an Aida production - particularly a traditional one at the Met - and really, you'd feel somewhat short-changed if it didn't have all the other bells and whistles (and trumpets).

You won't feel short-changed by the singers here either. Johan Botha is one of the finest tenors in the world, a great Wagnerian heldentenor, which serves him in good stead for this particular Verdi opera. I don't know about his acting ability - there's not much required here of Ramadès - but he has an ability to fill his roles with life, principally through the wonderful warmth of tone of his voice. Violeta Urmana is the Verdian soprano of choice at the moment, and she is fine singing the role of Aida, if again there are not any real acting demands placed on her. Dolora Zajick is an experienced Amneris and sings the role well, but does unfortunately look constipated when singing (sorry, but she does). The final duet notwithstanding, Act IV of Aida belongs to Amneris however, Verdi giving her character real depth and human passion, and Dolora Zajick launches into it with relish, making perhaps the strongest impression on the whole production, which is a little lacking in energy elsewhere.

Recorded live for worldwide broadcast in 2009 for the Met's Live in HD programme, the production looks fantastic in High Definition, is colourful and well-lit. The audio mixes are in PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 and, allowing for one or two minor sound issues with the live mix which is a little bit echoing in places, they both sound fine, the surround in particular dispersing the choral singing well. Extras on the BD include edited-down interviews (I'd have been happy to listen to much more of this) conducted by Renée Fleming with the cast and extras.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular, 22 July 2011
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Having seen Decca's appalling blu-ray of Turandot my expectations of this Aida were lowered. They needn't have been because it is wonderful.

The legendary Zefferelli set is tasteful, the camera and editing is unobtrusive, video quality is excellent, sound engineering and audio quality top notch.

As for the performers, the orchestra under Gatti sounds dynamic and well paced throughout. Urmana as Aida performs far better than she did in the vulgar Milan production. Botha sings a bold Radames from beginning to end. Indeed, everyone in the cast seems to be confident, relaxed and on top of their roles.

And then there is Dolores Zajick. Now at her maturity she would be forgiven for not performing as well as she did with Domingo and Milo. No forgiveness necessary as she is every inch the Amneris she was 20 years ago, and some!

This performance does not topple Levine's as the definitive Aida but it comes within a hair's breadth.

And yes, the bloody Met audience interrupt the final G-flat "Pace" as always. But I guess they paid a lot more than I did for the privilege.

Edit: A friend re-watched with me and commented on Urmana's performance lacking dynamism. Fair observation but I think this is very much an Amneris led performance. It's not uncommon for Amneris to upstage Aida and in this case it is performed on that premise. Here Zajick fleshes out the lovesick Amneris more than any production I have seen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Spectacular Aida, 5 Dec. 2014
This is a spectacular production, with big sets representing Egyptian temples. It is wholly successful as a spectacle with a large chorus, horses on stage and great dance sequences. Fortunately, the orchestra, conductor and singers bring off the intimate scenes just as well as the spectacular ones. It is hard to imagine this being better sung. The four principal singers are rather large, but fit very well into the static formal production. The one drawback is the usual Met problem of the audience applauding while the music is stil playing. This spoils the end of the opera and is the reason I have only given four stars instead of five.. Nevertheless, a very satisfying Aida.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starring Franco Zeffirelli, 20 July 2011
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This blu-ray is incorrectly subtitled as "Starring Violeta Urmana and Roberto Alagna". The correct subtitle should be "Starring Franco Zeffirelli and Franco Zeffirelli".

Despite the riot of coloured viscose and polyester the staging is exquisite, with all the Zeffirelli glitter one expects. However, this blu-ray suffers from the most awful video editing that distracts from the drama attempting to focus your attention on the fine fabrics, shiny amulets and Zefferelli details.

Performances are mostly good but not spectacular. Urmana sings well enough but Alagna is not on his finest form. Komlosi's Amneris for me gives the best performance and the orchestra under Chailly is superb. Audio quality is good.

But what spoils this version for me (apart from the continued practice of blacking-up Aida) most of all is the eye-wateringly ludicrous Dance of the Priestesses, performed by a ballerina who should have been paid with luncheon vouchers, pretentiously prancing about like someone from amateur rep. In fact it reminded me of The Dude's landlord in The Great Lebowski. A very atmospheric part of the opera utterly ruined.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More information needed, 19 Feb. 2013
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I was hoping for the Verona production. I couldn't see where it was staged and so took a guess from the picture and the director's name. I got Milan instead. The big problem is the cameras seem to be in the hands of someone who doesn't know what to do with them. They are constantly fading to billowing material, which I found annoying. Strangely the production seems to have too much spectacle, which makes the staging very congested. In summary, rather less than the sum of its parts.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Bolshoi meets The Met, 9 Oct. 2011
By 
G. Account (London) - See all my reviews
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A lavish Bolshoi-style production with more gold on stage than in Fort Knox. Very annoying sports-events-like introductions before each act. And - I agree with one of reviewers - oh boy, you need a really wide screen to accommodate the cast. I wish it would be possible to zoom out rather to see this in close up. Honestly.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes - But..., 5 Feb. 2012
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a great production with a vocally splendid cast. However for me it it was almost ruined by the Met's constant drive to make opera "accessible" - whatever that means. At least the cast interviews are now placed as extras on the DVD. However why do they feel it is necessary to show highlights from virtually every scene and set as part of the menu to the DVD thus destroying any sense of wonder at the staging as the production progresses? Why do they begin the production back stage so you see the set 'nuts and bolts' before the curtain rises? Why - in an opera as spectacular as Aida do they seldom allow you to see the full stage effect but rather concentrate on silly little details like the tops of flag poles or minor set decorations? In the opera's most spectacular moments why do they insist on giving high angle shots which spoil the "reveal" so that you are not given the privileged moment of magic the audience experiences? Why do they insist on so many edits when all that most of us want is to see, and concentrate on, the singers performing? And last but far from least - why oh why do they focus-in so closely on the faces of the performers - in HD showing every wrinkle, blemish, and ounce of make-up and wig line??? That is NOT what theatre is about. It's about illusion. And when you have (sorry about this) "mature" singers of limited physical attraction, as you have in this production - it does no one any favours to be literally looking up their noses!! Come on Met, find someone like Brian Large the British tv director of some of the best versions of televised opera, and relegate whoever is advising you on the recording of your productions, to a dark back room. The tragedy is that the Met's Blu Rays are reasonably priced and normally have wonderful productions and casts. However the crass recording of many of them really does let them down so much!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Fare, 22 April 2011
By 
Satish Kamath (India) - See all my reviews
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If one is old enough, I am sure he or she would remember the first time the 'stereo' format in audio was introduced. They made it a point to separate the sound to such a degree that you got a silent hole in the middle of the room between the speakers.

Similarly, the post production (video direction) people here thought that it is quite worthwhile to demonstrate the clarity of the blu ray format and blank out the opera at times, and distract you into watching the details on the walls, skirts, flags and the polish of the trumpets and so on. It served the purpose of sprinkling water on one's face just when one is about to doze off to a nice dream...

As far as the opera goes
Alagna is not impressive. He has to FORCE himself to sing loud and his voice becomes ear piercing and harsh rather than have a beautiful rounded tone when just about any other great singer of this opera, from Domingo upwards who tried the same. It becomes quite irritating and the vibratos kind of make the intonation either sharp or flat. He is just inadequate for this role.

Urmana was just about adequate. Although she does not really become the star of the show, she has done far more justice to Aida than Alagna has to Radamez. Komlozi (Amneris) has sung her role quite well. The rest of the cast are quite alright, and do their parts quite well.

Kudos to Riccardo Chaily. He really impresses along with the orchestra. The sound is just great, and the audio balancing and post production has been done rather impressively. He and the orchestra/chorus is the reason that I have given 3 stars for this production rather than 2.

Zafirelli? I think he is getting a little old and his sense of what is grandiose is getting a little grander and therefore, rather gaudy. Remember what they did with the eastman color or technicolour in the movie 'South Pacific'? He kind of achieves this with this production.

Would I have bought it if I had seen it before doing so? In all likelihood, NO.

HOWEVER,one gets used to a bad smell too provided most of the other stuff is more or less OK. So what is immediately distracting pales a bit, and the overall beauty of the production with Chailly in command redeems it to an extent.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear.........., 2 July 2012
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I suppose before buying this I should have listened to what the critics had written after the opening night - and bearing in mind that two nights after this performance Alagna was booed, (and he walked out); should also have been the final warning.
I have to confess that I didn't find the production as offensive as some reviewers (surely the whole point of Aida is grand spectacle and there were some very clever ideas explored), but I have many issues with the performers.
Alagna isn't in the best of voice here, although nothing I saw on this opening night suggested to me that he deserved to be booed as voraciously as he was a few nights later - but, as often is the case in this opera house, there was a lot of behind the scenes politcal forces at work here too.
I absolutely hated Violeta Urmana's Aida in every respect (vocally, acting, credibility) and having now seen her at the Met, I haven't changed my mind.
I also wasn't bowled over by Komlosi's Amneris, as some reviewers were - but, she is undoubtedly the best thing in this.
If I'm honest, I was disappointed with Carlo Guefi, which suprised me, because I found much to admire in his Rigoletto at Covent Garden.
Having not really much more to say about this recording, other than I cannot recommend this to you (unless you like dodgy acting, screechy, off-key and at times, unpleasant singing) but there are so many Aida's out there, that it is nigh impossible to highlight just one.
The last La Scala version is better sung and marginally a better production; but as glorious as Pavarotti sounds; he cannot pull off the very complex role of Radames. My wife always says that in the tomb scene he looks more like he's propping up the bar in the early hours, rather than suffocating to death!
The new Live in HD Met version has similar issues for me to this one.
Pavarotti in San Francisco is more convincing and sings like an angel, but Amneris (Stefania Toczyska) and Aida (Margaret Price) are weak.
A 1966 relay from Verona has poor sound and picture, but Gencer, Bergonzi and Cossotto are to die for vocally, but it has typical 1950/60s acting.
For me, the best is still the 1988 production from the Met; near perfect singing, excellent acting and a very good production - unfortunately it wasn't taped in HD, so it won't be able to make a Bluray release; but you can't have it all.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but still great production, 15 July 2009
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Aida has been a favourite of mine for over 50 years but had not been looked at for awhile. So it was a great pleasure to reacquaint myself with the music. This production, filmed by Zeffirelli, is a sumptuous one although the frequent dissolves into out of focus waving cloth could be distracting at times and was a bit over done for me.
But the singing is brilliant, particularly Ildiko Komlosi in the role of Amneris. For some reason I have previously always regarded the role of Aida as the pivotal one but this production clearly demonstrates the importance of Amneris with her intense passion for our hero Radames, sung by Roberto Alagna. This is not meant to depreciate the great singing of Violeta Urmanda in the title role. The chorus is great although a more powerful Ramfis than Giorgio Giuseppini would have not gone astray.
The sets, costumes and lighting are top notch in this traditional presentation although the ballet scenes were somewhat wimpy.
The lack of audience applause at times was puzzling as Italian audiences are unrestrainedly enthusiastic, so it is hard to imagine Zeffirelli was able to persuade them to keep silent. So, it is possible some of it was filmed without an audience although no change in acoustics was obvious.
Yes, the sound is glorious and the video quality impeccable. This would be a good first opera for someone to cut their teeth on. Highly recommended.
POSTCRIPT: Just read some of the other reviews here and on the US site (I always write mine before looking) and can appreciate others found Zeffirelli's approach distracting, but to me the singing was good enough to forgive that. Yes, it was hard to appreciate Aida, as portrayed by Violetta, as being someone to risk life and reputation for, but her brilliant singing made me overlook this. And I agree Alagna was unimpressive in the first Act but redeemed himself at the end. Yes, the final production does come through as a "stitched up" effort combining some live production with some that is not. So yes, a mixed bag, but a worthwhile one IMHO.
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Aida: Teatro Alla Scala (Chailly) [DVD] [2007]
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