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Strange filming of an eye-popping feast,
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This review is from: Aida: Teatro Alla Scala (Chailly) [DVD]  (DVD)
With the one possible exception of Don Carlos, Aida is the Verdi historic opera which most lends itself to spectacle within a traditional setting. In his return to La Scala after a long absence Franco Zeffirelli has certainly achieved this with a most elaborate and for the most part pleasing staging. There are some disappointments for the great climax of act two is mishandled. The stage is over packed with artistes, there is no actual physical march and the ballet is insipid. Such minor quibbles apart it was a great pleasure to view this production after enduring the horrors of the "alternative" staging put on by Covent Garden in December 1994.
A great achievement is the very fine playing of the orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Chailly. Among the singers the stand out is Ildiko Komlosi who is a very effective and evil Amneris. It is the tenor's misfortune that his great aria comes so early in the opera and here the singing of Roberto Alagna, the most famous name in the cast, came across as seriously laboured. Things were to improve greatly in both acts three and four. At a time adjacent to this production Alagna had incurred some audience disfavour but here a keeness for audience approbation was evident in his thumbs up signal to the gallery during curtain call.
This production has much to recommend it and a standard film version would have been very acceptable. Unfortunately somewhere along the way somebody decided that the film record should be an art house movie. Consequently the viewer is obliged to endure splashes of colour, bits of cloth and outsize trumpets as far too frequent and totally unnecessary introductions. These distractions have the great capacity to both irritate and spoil the flow of the film for the viewer. For more than twenty years the very experienced Brian Large has been the master of inhouse opera filming and to my knowledge he has never felt the need for such absurd innovations.
Aida is well served on DVD but as an introduction or cornerstone of a collection the Met's spectacular version with its jaw-dropping Triumphal March, under the baton of James Levine is difficult to beat. It is the great achievement of both Cheryl Studer and Luciana D'Intino that by their superlative singing they can rise abolve the wreckage of the staging and costume design of Covent Garden's 1994 production. Roberto Alagna is at his very best in the title role of the Covent Garden production of Faust