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Decca Legends: Verdi: AIDA
Giuseppe Verdi, Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Decca Legends: Verdi: AIDA
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2

A compelling Aida, especially for those who revel in a virtuoso orchestra going through its paces. Under Karajan's baton, the Vienna Phil plays with breathtaking elegance and refinement, not perhaps the ideal attributes of...  more »


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A compelling Aida, especially for those who revel in a virtuoso orchestra going through its paces. Under Karajan's baton, the Vienna Phil plays with breathtaking elegance and refinement, not perhaps the ideal attributes of a Verdian pit band but undeniably exciting, as are the conductor's tempo choices, often faster or slower than usual. In 1959, Tebaldi remained a great Aida even if she was in fresher voice for her earlier mono recording. Bergonzi is a characterful Radames, Simionato a terrific, full-bodied Amneris, and the rest of the cast vocally fine, if occasionally bland. The excellent transfer is better balanced than earlier releases of this recording, helping to earn its place among the choice Aidas on disc, though I prefer RCA's mono version with Milanov and Bjorling from 1955, also at midprice. But you can never have too many Aidas. --Dan Davis

CD Reviews

A Thrilling Recording
Jaime J. Weinman | Canada | 02/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The main virtues of this recording are already mentioned in other reviews: the brilliant orchestral playing, and the singing of the four principals. The singing isn't perfect--Tebaldi is a bit past her best (most noticeably in the notoriously difficult high note in "O Patria Mia"), and Bergonzi doesn't have the vocal heft and force of an ideal Radames. But overall, it's as strong a cast as can be found on any AIDA recording, with special mention going to the brilliantly sung and characterized Amneris of Giulietta Simionato. What makes the recording controversial is the sound.For one view of producer John Culshaw's sound-balances, you can read the thoughtful and intelligent review below mine. But to my ears, the orchestra does not overpower the singers--rather, the singers are simply not placed unnaturally close-up, which is what happens in most operatic recordings. Instead the singers are kept at a fair distance from the microphones, allowing for something closer to an opera-house aural perspective. Yes, when the orchestra plays very loudly the singers can be difficult to hear, but that's exactly what would happen in the theatre (no one singer is loud enough to overpower a full orchestra). But there's no lack of power from the singers when needed; once you adjust your expectations--i.e. don't expect the voices to be placed far forward and the orchestra way backward--the glory of these voices comes through loud and clear. One tip: this recording needs to be played loudly to make its maximum (thrilling) impact--the opera-house balances tend to make the most sense at full opera-house volume.Culshaw's stereo staging plan is complex and quite brilliant, with movement not only along a horizontal plane but also from front to back (so that Bergonzi sings the recitative to "Celeste Aida" from the back of the "stage," and then steps forward to sing the aria). I feel it enhances the feeling of a real performance going on.Karajan's interpretation is large-scaled, lush-sounding, somewhat stately, going for epic pageantry rather than dramatic propulsion. It's certainly not the only way to do "Aida," but it's a legitimate way, and since this is Karajan before his descent into self-indulgence (in the mid-'60s or thereabouts), he makes it work. I wouldn't say that this should be your only "Aida"-- the Solti version is a strong contender among stereo sets, and the monophonic RCA/Perlea version has some wonderful things in it. But this is certainly an "Aida" like no other, and I think it's great."
Gregory Freeze | 06/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My parents gave me this recording of AIDA for Christmas in 1971 when I was thirteen years old. I was already a pianist but was instantly bitten by the "opera bug" and listened to the complete performance while following the full orchestra score so many times that it had to be replaced several times. It affected the course of my entire life by introducing me to grand opera and caused me to seek out as many other recordings of operas and singers as I could find and, as a result of this, I became a successful tenor, vocal coach, and piano accompanist. This is the recording that I would recommend over all others to introduce young people to grand opera. Renata Tebaldi's performance is the most beautifully sung interpretation of the title role out of the dozens of recordings which I have heard. Her interpretation is the best in terms of communicating the drama through voice alone and she gives priceless lessons in phrasing and tone color throughout--even while coping gorgeously with Karajan's ridiculously slow tempo for "O Patria Mia" which causes the aria to lose its rhythmic impulse and makes the ascent to high C unreasonably endless. I also love the beautifully sung Ramphis of Arnold Van Mill. An artist who made very few recordings, he creates a character of subtlety and mystery through great musical insight and the most uniquely beautiful and mellow bass voice which I have ever heard. Eugenia Ratti as the Priestess in Act One Scene Two creates absolute magic in her brief appearance. Her singing of this short but crucial part has never been approached on any other recording and is magically enhanced by the care given to her contribution by the London/Decca engineers."
Renata Tebaldi is magnificent
D. Bennett | 09/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Renata Tebaldi was an extremely consistent artist. Although time had its toll on her voice, it was in the form of gradual steps, rather than career-shattering lunges.
Tebaldi voice was at its freshest early in her career, she was able to sing lighter roles with a higher tessitura than later in her career. A good example of her singing during this period is her first recordings of Madama Butterfly and La Boheme, both 1951, which are very fine. Despite any (slight) vocal shortcomings that would later become present, she developed as an actress and her interpretations found a new dramatic quality particularly evident by the late 1950s. The Karajan Aida shows quite a change from her earlier performance besides Mario del Monaco back in 1952, being more dramatic and intense. The voice in 1959 is darker and slightly less comfortable on the high notes, but it had not diminished in size and it retains the beautiful, `womanly' characteristic evident since her earliest records- indeed these qualities remain and contribute to what is potentially her finest recording - Desdemona on the 1961 Karajan set beside Mario del Monaco.
The voice deepened and darkened again from the early 1960s towards the end of her career and Tebaldi's repertoire changed accordingly - typified by the title role of Ponchielli's La Gioconda, which she sang to great success on stage and on record.
My recommendations for opera fans that are yet to fall in love with Tebaldi are her recordings of La Fanciulla del West, La Forza del Destino, and Otello (Karajan). Besides these recordings, for early Tebaldi go for her first Boheme or Madama Butterfly and for an idea of what she was like later in her career go for her Gioconda.