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Verdi: Aida [DVD] [2006]

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Lorin Maazel, Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Chiara, La Scala Chorus, La Scala Theatre Orchestra
  • Format: Box set, Classical, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, PAL, Subtitled
  • Language: English, German, French, Spanish
  • Subtitles: German, English, Dutch, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: ARTHAUS
  • DVD Release Date: 2 Jan. 2007
  • Run Time: 238 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000JLQS7E
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,193 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Egypt and Ethiopia are at war. Radames is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces by the King, whose daughter, Amneris, loves Radames. It is in fact Amneris' Ethiopian slave Aida whom Radames loves. Ramades wins the war against the Ethiopians, capturing Aida's father Amonasro in the process. On his return to Egypt he faces a choice between marrying Amneris or betraying his country through his love for Aida. This new production was a triumphant success when it opened at La Scala in December 1985 and Luciano Pavarotti's long awaited performance as Radames, his first in Italy, was greeted with rapturous applause.


La Scala went all-out for its 1986 production of this grandest of grand operas, with a strong cast and--most important for a video recording--a larger-than-life staging. The Triumph Scene in Act II is by no means Aida's only attraction, but it is the part that makes the strongest and most lasting impression and it is the visual and musical climax of this production. Stage director Ronconi brings on a procession to dwarf all processions: looted treasures, heroic statuary, miserable captives struggling under the lash of whip-bearing slave-drivers. On par with these visuals is Lorin Maazel's first-class performance of the popular "Grand March" with the outstanding La Scala chorus and orchestra. In Act III, the contrasting tranquillity of the Nile Scene also gets a visual treatment to match the music's qualities.

When it is not an epic spectacle, Aida is a tragic story of love, jealousy and horrible revenge. The shifting focus between vast spectacle and intimate moments-sometimes awkward in a live performance onstage--presents special opportunities and challenges for a video recording. In this Aida, the camera work shows an acute awareness of those opportunities and challenges. The soloists have a variety of strengths that outweigh a few small weaknesses. Luciano Pavarotti sings one of his signature roles in superb voice, but his weight problems are visually evident and detract from his impact as the dashing hero Radames. Maria Chiara has moments of vocal imperfection but gives a dramatically compelling performance. Ghena Dimitrova sings powerfully and the supporting cast is excellent throughout. --Joe McLellan, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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This performance was recorded at La Scala, Milan in 1985 and the sound is excellent. It is a very lavish no expenses spared production with elaborate costumes and effective scenery. The Aida is Maria Chiara who was far too little known outside Italy. She was Renata Tebaldi's natural successor, possessing a creamy voice and she knew how to sing texts intelligently. Radamas is Luciano Pavarotti, on whose voice it would be superfluous to comment, save to say that he is caught here at his early vocal peak. The Amneris is Ghena Dimitrova who had a strong voice of considerable range, entirely devoid of Slavonic wobble and capable of great subtlety. The smaller parts are cast from strength, and the La Scala chorus and orchestra perform in an exemplary fashion. Much of the musical excellence is due to the fine conducting of Lorin Maazel who shapes the opera intelligently, knows when to press on and when to hold back, gives his soloists room to be properly expressive and yet keeps a firm rein on proceedings. All in all this is probably the best sung Aida currently available in any medium. Whether it is for you may depend on how important it is to have first rate acting as well. We get that from Dimitrova, certainly; crossing this Pharoah's daughter would be very unwise, yet her self-imposed dilemmas are hauntingly caught. Chiara tries hard and is very athletic, but outside her singing tends to express emotions chiefly by means of hand gestures. Pavarotti, of course, doesn't act at all. He permits himself a slightly heaving chest at moments of great emotion, but for the most part he just stands and delivers. Personally speaking, I don't mind any of this. The emotion is all there in the wonderful singing (just try Chiara's 'Numi, pieta' as an example). This really is very special musically speaking.
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This is a video of a 1985 La Scala performance of Aida with Luciano Pavarotti as Radamès, Maria Chiara as Aïda, Ghena Dimitrova as Amneris, Juan Pons as Amonasro, Nicolai Ghiaurov as Ramfis and Paata Burchuladze as the King. It has been released several times before: Verdi - Aida / Maazel, Chiara, Pavarotti, La Scala or Verdi / Pavarotti / Chiara / Dimitrova / Ghiaurov / Pons - Aida (1985). And it is a pretty good performance hampered by a production that has elements of gigantism (and I don't just mean Pavarotti, who is indeed as large as he ever was in this production), left-wing commentary about imperialism (lots of poor slaves suffering), unnecessary humongous statuary that the poor slaves have to keep moving about, naked women (in the opening of Act II) followed by naked Nubian boys. The singing is impressive all round.

However, the draw for this particular package was supposed to be the contemporaneous South Bank Show (BBC, hosted by Melvyn Bragg), entitled 'Aïda File - The Making of Aïda', which unfortunately has great chunks of untranslated (or un-subtitled) Italian by such personages as Carlo Bergonzi, Renata Tebaldi, Pierluigi Petrobelli and the production's director, Luca Ronconi). Why there are no subtitles or English voice-overs I have no idea. But there you are. Frustrating in the extreme for this monolingual American viewer, I can tell you.

If you understand Italian this package might be for you. Otherwise I'd suggest, if you're interested in owning this particular production, that you buy one of the stand-alone version, without the documentary.

Running time: Opera 160 mins, Documentary 72 mins; Sound: PCM Stereo, Dolby digital; Opera subtitles: German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish; Format: 4:3; Region Code: 0 (worldwide)

Scott Morrison
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Years ago, I saw "Aida" at Sydney Opera House. The theatre stage in that strange complex is too small for grand opera so it was presented in the concert hall. Impressive, but in need of backdrops and scenery. A later production at the Melbourne Arts Centre was smaller, with a chorus only as large as the budget would permit. Neither attained the level of sheer spectacle of this La Scala presentation.

OK, Pavarotti was already overweight, but his voice was at its peak. While he stands stiffly, Chiara and Dimitrova not only sing gloriously but also act superbly.

There is indeed a lot of statue-shifting by the slaves but I've never seen such a huge cast so magnificently directed shifting such remarkable scenery on such a large stage. By the way, the ladies and boys, in Act II, are not naked as claimed by another reviewer -- they are wearing something, even if it's not very much.

As for the Italian language spoken in the documentary, yes, I too was disappointed that there are no sub-titles. But that is no reason to reject the whole thing. For a start, we hear the beautiful Yorkshire diction of Melyvn Bragg, who is always worth listening to. We hear snatches of some of the great singers of the past, such as Gigli and Martinelli. And we are taken to many of the places associated with Verdi and the opera, and shown many contemporary documents.

This is not a bargain basement set of DVDs but well worth buying, I reckon.
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What is opera? An opera is a staged dramatic work that is set to music where the words are entirely or primarily sung. This definition may imply that the visual element is predominant to the uninitiated. Whilst this is important, an opera is so much more. Opera lives and dies by the music that accompanies the drama on stage. Where the words alone are sad, the music throws it into a whole other dimension making it heart wrenchingly poignant. If the words stir thought then the music aims straight for the soul and instinctive comprehension.

And so to this Aida that La Scala (thankfully) preserved for posterity. Surely it is one to hold up as a standard for it is beautifully sung by the principles and sympathetically backed up by the maestro and his orchestra in the pit. The musical part of this dvd easily holds it's own against any cd recording. Yes some would argue that the acting is not up to scratch compared to other Aidas on dvd but that would be to miss that the singing here is finer. And the La Scala staging is sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Yes Pavarotti may be a hundred pounds more than the ideal Radames would be but here we have him in his prime producing a thrilling timbre and an open top. And the two leading ladies Dimitrova and Chiara carry their parts ably. Maazel, too, plays his part leading the orchestra and chorus into shaping a performance that is never ponderous yet seemingly always providing time for certain passages to linger on. (Listen to Aida when she sings "Numi, pieta del mio soffrir" as a prime example of this.)

There are other Aidas on dvd but this is one to have first and foremost for the musical content.
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