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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Aida: Metropolitan Opera (Gatti) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
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on 22 April 2017
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on 20 January 2012
This was my second opera on Blue-ray following the Decca Turandot. This is not that dissimilar in terms of picture, sound and performance. In terms of picture quality and detail i could find little to fault the sumptuous costumes and epic sets showed gold dripping detail and a warm colour rendition. Sound quality was excellent with the voices well focused and orchestral detail well captured. I found the sound more open than on the corresponding Turandot. Though I can only base this on plain DTS surround rather than its HD counterpart.

The production is what you would expect from the Met lavish in the extreme, Hollywood 'epic' sets, rich costumes and the stage packed when called for with all manner of singers, dancers and animals. If you want a traditional production on a grand scale this does disappoint. This is truly grand opera. The camera work in the main is good but some of the numerous overhead pans and floor height views of the singers can be rather distracting. I found some of the crane camera shots a bit frantic but this is largely due to it being an angle you would not get from your seat.

The singing though lacking a star name tenor and soprano in the lead roles in the main does not let the performance down. The acting is limited this is a true stand and deliver, sing your heart out approach. Johan Botha (Radames)sings with Wagnerian strength and tone rather than the Italianate tone we have become used to. The two female rivals Violeta Urmana (Aida) and Dolora Zajick (Amneris)are well matched the one Urmana the new Verdi star the other Zajick a old hand in the role having sung more performances of the role than any current singer. Urmana's voice is heavier than some more recent exponents of the role and Zajick after a slow start rises up and steals the show. The lesser roles are well taken. The ensembles blend well. Daniele Gatti in the pit is an experienced opera conductor and does not let the side down with a well paced reading of the score with fine dramatic intensity when called for.

There are some back stage interviews which you either like or don't. There are no issues with the sound vision sync. There are other versions on Blue-ray which I have not seen so cannot comment on and a new one from Zubin Metha due the end of the month. There are others on DVD with the DG Met/Levine/Domingo possibly the best of the grand scale performances it should be re-mastered for Blue-ray. None of these DVDs can match this for picture and sound quality. If you want a performance on the grand scale with give all you have singing of this opera you will not be short changed with this.
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on 11 July 2014
You may notice that in reading the 20 reviews, that they are crossed with the Alagna Zurich production and vice versa. This is definately a review of the 2011 Met!
This production has big sets, big support choruses and big lead singers. The whole production however is not as big as it should be.
Urmana is by no means the worst Aida I have heard, her voice is true, but she is lacking in the acting stakes, being rather static.
Botha is big in stature, but his voice is light, not particularly expressive, he too is somewhat static on stage.
Zajick, sings as well as she ever has,(I have the 1989 version), I could easily retitle the opera Amneris in her honour. It is the best role in the opera, calling for a wide range of emotions. Zajick is a superb interpreter of the role.
The sets if I am not mistaken are very similar to th 1989 production, big scenery, and impressive.
Jumpimg forward to the Grand March, well it is of course rather grand, but the camera work is bitty.
In act 4 Amneris in her aria is brilliant, and in the follow up duet with Ramades, Botha seems to get a lift from Zajick, this sequence I would say is the highlight of the performance.
The final entombment scene is sensitively handled and sung, though Ramades and Aida are rather distant physically.
I do prefer the early version with Domingo as Ramades, but Armana suits me better than Aprile Millo.
If you like even more spectacle, at the expence of 2 of the lead singers try Arena Di Verona, Hu Hue is good, a cast of thousands.
On a more intimate scale the Royal Opera House, with Cheryl Studer, Denis O'Neill and the remarkable Luciana D'Intino, who can match Zajick, give the best all round singing performance.
I rest my case, enjoy!
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on 22 July 2011
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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on 5 August 2011
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 February 2012
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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on 1 August 2011
This is a Blu-ray disc and as such should be produced to ensure a realistic visual account of the opera. The picture and sound quality are generally good although the focus seemed soft quite often. The main issue is the three main cast members all of whom are so grossly over-weight none of them could hope to perform the tasks intended in real life. Radames would die of a heart attack before he got anywhere near the enemy. I will not comment further about the ladies. This may not matter for a single performance in the opera house or on CD but for repeat viewing on Blu-ray I want singers who look the part.

I found the ballet sequences unsatisfying - over-muscular, rather modern choreography and just not at all evocative of ancient Egypt. I was not over-impressed with the grand march staging either. It looked tired. I cannot recommend this release on visual grounds which is a shame as the only other Aida on Blu-ray is also unsatisfactory.
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on 5 December 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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on 15 April 2015
Very traditional. Awesome production values - the Met in full bella figura. Principals a bit bulky and static, but can sing - excellent Amneris in particular. Gatti know his stuff. Should be best in Blu-ray
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on 6 December 2012
This production has one problem, the principals are on the heave side and tend to waddle rather than act. That said, it really is a spectacle with some stunning camera angles and dancing. I can't fault the singing either.
So do I leave it at 42GB on my media center or squish it to something smaller. For now I'm happy to leave it uncompressed, which in my terms is a fairly strong recommendation.
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