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on 29 October 2009
I bought this to complement my Maria Chiara collection whom I have always admired visually and vocally.I was not prepared for the stellar collection of characters.I mean- Ghiaurov,Dimitrova(whom I always cosidered a soprano),Pons etc.
The picture is stunning as is the sound.I find the scenery a bit puzzling as it differs from any other videos I possess.For example it is quite unlike the ones featuring Chiara and Martinucci and Bergonzi and Gencer both recorded in Verona.
I cannot fault the singing.Big Pav was never one of my favourite tenors,rating him below e.g Corelli,Bergonzi,Bonisolli to name a few.Here his voice is awesome as is his singing.A reviewer has commented on his just standing and delivering.But the role is such that in the main there are not many opportunities.He could have been a bit more ardent in the Nile Scene,but let's be frank they were not very compatible physically.The costume he had to wear did nothing to diminish his gargantuan physique either.Nontheless great singing!
Chiara in her mid 40s is still beautiful and her singing is top class.She has been termed the successor to Tebaldi-Not for me.She did not possess a voice comparable to that great soprano,but probably had an easier top and her O Patria Mia is thrilling handling the exposed top C without any problem.
I found Dimitrova awesome-what a voice-what power!This is my first experience of her visually and she had a very commanding presence.
Pons sings and acts the role of Amonasro very well and suitably conveys his fury at his daughters refusal to co-operate in deceiving Radames.
Finally Ghiaurov is his usual Majestic Ramphis with voice to match.
The Orchestra under Maazel makes a wonderful sound.It has to be 5 Stars.
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on 10 July 2017
my dad was very happy with dvd
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on 17 January 2009
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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on 1 August 2009
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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on 24 February 2007
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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on 24 January 2012
I was looking to replace my fuzzy 1981 recording of Maria Chiara's performance at the Arena di Verona, and decided to take a risk with her 1985 performance recorded at La Scala featuring Pavarotti et al.

I knew that allowances would have to be made for the limitations of the La Scala stage, and for Pavarotti's acting ability, but I still found this performance disappointing. Whilst the singing of the principals was generally excellent, the production itself lacked the visual spectacle and grandeur which most people associate with this grandest of grand operas.

Nowhere were these deficiences more apparent than in the scenes of triumph and celebration which conclude Act II. As a portrayal of military victory it owed more to "Dad's Army" than to the might of ancient Egypt, and the ballet was even worse. The dancers, scruffily dressed as peasants (why?) performed a rather perfunctory routine, hampered by lumps of rock and stone "scenery" which had been strewn around the stage for no apparent reason.

"Aida" should be a shining example of all the strengths and qualities which audiences most admire in GRAND opera, but this was a performance better heard than seen.

Other reviewers have already commented on the infuriating lack of subtitles or voice-overs on the Italian spoken sections of the accompanying Documentary disc. These problems could and should have been overcome with the application of today's technology.

I shall be keeping the 1981 Verona version after all.
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on 22 April 2012
The DVD market bulges with productions of this famous tragedy but pride of place should go to this 1985 production from La Scala. Initially I decided to make the purchase as a homage to Pavarotti and as a long overdue introdution to Maria Chiara and Ghena Dimitrova. It was money well spent for not only is there marvellous singing by the three leads but the other important soloists (Juan Pons as Amonasro, Paata Burchuladze as the king and the great bass Nicolai Ghiaurov as Ramphis) are also excellent. I was particularly impressed by Ghena Dimitrova whose full ample tone came across as ideally suited to the mercurial nature of Amneris. Both orchestra and chorus, under the experienced baton of Lorin Maazel are also very fine. Viewed as a "team effort" I doubt if there is vocally a superior performance available on CD or DVD.

Among the three leads the best acting performance is given by Ghena Dimitrova who creates a compelling Amneris, both selfserving and confused. The elegant Maria Chiara certainly looks the part of Aida but she tends to rely on some rather artificial hand gestures more often associated with an older generation of singers. Of course the great man himself does not actually act. At times almost motionless he limits himself to an occasion hand gesture, licking of the lips and the odd chest heave. It was not always thus for in the Met's 1982 production of Idomeneo Pavarotti turns in a very acceptable performance. The weight issue was never a serious problem for this performer for somehow he successfully succeeded in making his outsize an essential part of his personna and in common with Dame Joan Sutherland the presence on stage alone was sufficient to reassure an audience. Other singers of fullfigure, including the fine soprano Sharon Sweet, have not fared so well.

This is a amazingly staged production which works very well. In the first two acts legions of slaves manipulate massive blocks and statues about the stage, which must always hold audience attention. The seriously complicated work demanded of the artistes playing the slaves alone is a testament to masterly direction. The justly celebrated climax to act 2 finishes with a rather insipid ballet (the feeding of the female slaves) which is a minor disappointment. The slaves are absent in the last two acts and there is no frenetic movement of blocks and statues. Both acts are staged in a traditional manner and in particular the staging of act 3 is very effective.

For the aficionado of truly first class singing this spectacular production is a great plus to any Verdi collection. For a viewer seeking an introduction to the opera the Met's amazingly staged version, under the baton of James Levine, with a jaw-dropping Triumphal March is a very good starting point

Trottman
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on 27 December 2013
Perfect gift for a close friend, who has long wanted to seethe opera but is unable to travel.to the theatres
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on 9 July 2014
Happy with quality
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