One for the Fans
John Cardenas | Ontario, CA United States | 04/26/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This recording is essentially for fans of Pavarotti. He hits all the right notes as Radames, but he's far from heroic in vocal size or acting demeanor. Maria Chiara is a shrill Aida with wiry high notes. Maazel's conducting is nothing special, and the overall acoustical quality is not the best either (a converted church in Milan was used as a makeshift recording studio). Fans of Ghena Dimitrova will want to invest in this recording to hear her huge dramatic soprano sing the music of Amneris. The Penguin Guide to Opera Recordings described her Amneris as "dull," which is fair enough. In fact, the video of this same cast recorded at LaScala is superior (except in its bizarre costuming and set design). The stimulus of a live audience propelled Dimitrova to give an impassioned, incisive performance. Even though she could not give the role the bellowing low tones that a true mezzo-soprano would, her high notes rung out fiercely. She dominated every scene she was in through the sheer scale of her singing. Some of that is still evident in this studio recording, although she's generally placed well behind the others in the recording hall, presumably to allow them a fair chance of being heard. Definitely a collector's item, but it probably wouldn't show up on any one's top ten list."
OK, but really only one singer delivers
John Cardenas | 06/05/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I admit that I enjoyed this recording, however, it was NOT a great recording when it comes to representing this opera. Pavarotti is OK, but I have never enjoyed him in this role, not even at the MET. He is a lyric tenor, and really this role is not that lyric in quality. His musicality does come shining through, though. My ony reservation is the high B flat at the end of Celeste Aida. The diminishing of the tone sounds faked. That is not how his voice goes as he draws back the volume, and Pavarotti can sing fine pianissimos. The resonance was strange on that note, like it was completely contrived by the technicians. I don't know if it was, but it is not natural sounding at all. Chiara's voice is just too shrill to be a warm and inviting AIDA. She sings the part well, as far as notes are concerned, and as far as even some really good drama is concerned. Her voice is not pleasing (neither was Maria Callas' voice, but she had the ability to almost make you believe it was; Callas, even in AIDA which really was not a big part of her repertoire, used her musicality to make even the smallest detail come alive and give a very moving performance; the result was one completely overlooked the occasional "ugliness" of her sound), and even though she sings the notes, she doesn't have the inner feelings to cause us to overlook the stress her voice is encountering while singing this role. Nucci did nothing for me as AIDA's father. He sang well, but the part seemed like he wasn't sure about the motivation of the character. I have seen Nucci in performance, and he is not a vague performer, so I have to conclude it is because he was surrounded by a very vague cast; no one he sings with seems to be anything other than a singing machine. I really enjoyed Dimitrova, and she was electrifying. Sadly, that was about all that was electrifying. The conducting was very lazy and univolved, or so it recorded. I can just imagine how blazing Dimitrova is as Amneris if she is allowed to really let loose and is partnered with a case equal to her. I think it would be wonderful to hear her one night as AIDA and the next as AMNERIS. She is one singer who understands that Amneris is more than just anger and jealousy. She gives the impression that until AIDA came along, Radames and she may have been an item together. Amneris is far more developed than AIDA is, and we really have opportunities to see many aspects of her personality. I am very sure the drama before our eyes began quite a long while before we are given the privilege of entering into the scene as witnesses of it. One senses that Dimitrova understands all that. Sadly, no one else in the cast seems to respond to it. Her duet with Pavarotti is the strangest duet I have ever heard: she is speaking of important things, and he is just singing answers. It is almost like they are not even communicating with each other, but rather singing to themselves. She tries to make an impression on him regarding many important things (including that AIDA has not been killed, or even captured), and Pavarotti seems to just sing his heart out for the purpose of singing. The communication one feels between Vickers and Gore, for example, just isn't there. And what a pity, for Dimitrova certainly was willing and able to communicate. I don't rate this the worst AIDA I have heard, but it is not the best either. It seems to lack direction, and any story that is not told in a way that leads us from point A to B etc, doesn't seem to go anywhere. This recording is a lot of parts but no whole. However, that said, I did enjoy it, and I am not the slightest bit saddened that I paid the price for it."
Please look elsewhere for a good Aida recording.
JPH | Crawley | 09/23/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This was the worst opera set in my collection. Until I gave it away to somebody I hated."