on September 15, 2003
That was how Shaw characterised Verdi, bracketing him with Victor Hugo. Shaw also sensed a falling-off in spontaneity in Aida, its place being taken by increasing sophistication. I doubt if he would have had such reservations if he had heard this tremendous performance, one of the most thrilling you will ever hear. To get it going, Domingo's Celeste Aida is, well, celestial, and he is in superb voice throughout. Caballe sings like an angel from paradise. I remember her interviewed on TV by Bernard Levin years ago, and she almost winced as she said 'For Verdi you need so much VOICE'. There is no doubt about it, Verdi's demands on the human voice are inhuman, and I was lost in admiration at the entire cast and their majestic response to the whole wonderful but monstrous challenge set to them. At least one thing is simple in Aida and that is the plot-line, which makes a nice change compared with, say, Trovatore, and the characters, strongly drawn though they are both by Ghislanzoni and the composer, are not complex like Rigoletto or Iago.
I suspect that singers who can surmount the musical challenge as triumphantly as these do just find that they are acting superbly as well. The conducting helps just a little of course. Verdi's orchestral conception has now advanced beyond the 'big guitar' stage and the sumptuous sound Muti obtains and the strong forward thrust of his tempi creats an enthralling sense of grandeur. I had to listen to this Aida without interruption, just carried along by the sheer power of it. Loss of spontaneity? -- not a bit of it. The Requiem was still to come, and nobody has ever found any loss of spontaneity in that. For all the heartbreaking tenderness and pathos the final impression left is of an overpowering drama.
on February 26, 2003
Having listened to most of the famous Aida recordings, I've concluded that this comes closest to the ideal Aida performance in studio. All the singers on this set were at their best in their early '70s when this set was recorded. Their rich, powerful, secure voices and temperament are perfect for the roles.
Although I prefer Caballe in bel canto, as Aida she is superb, full of lyricism. Moreover, Caballe gives here one of her most dramatic studio performances. She doesn't have young Tebaldi's heavenly spinto sound but Montserrat's golden tone is almost equally affective. Notice Caballe's amazing vocal technique; the endless breath, the even registers and the seamless phrasing.
Domingo sings one of his most famous roles. He and Caballe have similar creamy voices and this makes the Aida-Radames duets very successful. He repeated the role in studio many times later but his partnership with Caballe produced the best results. Cossotto, Cappuccilli and Ghiaurov are flawless and remain my favourite Amneris, Amonastro and Ramfis. Muti conducts with grandness and lyricism and creates a masterful AIDA.
Even though this is THE BEST ALL-AROUND AIDA, other sopranos have also given great performances. Arroyo, Milanov, Price and Tebaldi are all superb (each in their own way). More recently, Millo has also successfully performed the title role.
on May 21, 2002
There are multiple strengths and no glaring weaknesses in this justly acclaimed recording. Muti's conducting is both dynamic and sensitive, as is Solti's, and somewhat brisker in tempo. Furthermore, he brings out orchestral details that are often not heard. The singing is strong throughout. Domingo's Radames has a powerful, full bodied timbre, and Caballe's Aida is distinguished by beautiful soft tones and clarity of diction, yet, at the same time, she effectively conveys Aida's passion and anguish, and also has the power of voice to handle the big dramatic moments. Ghiaurov's deep basso adds to the gravity of his performance of Ramfis, the chief priest. The only reservations I would offer is that Cossotto as Amneris, while strong of voice, sounds rather wooden in her portrayal as compared to Gorr in the Solti recording, and that Domingo's Radames, while beautifully sung and more Italian in style, does not penetrate into the character's thoughts and feelings as deeply as Vickers (who also possesses the powerful sound required to convey the more external aspects of Radames as noble warrior hero and ardent lover). Furthermore, Price is more lush of voice and overtly passionate, though her singing lacks the pianissimo shadings of Caballe, and she also tends to slur her consonants.
on May 14, 2002
Everytime I hear this recording of "Aida", I get carried away by the wonderful music and the equally magnificent interpretations of the singers. Caballe, Domingo, Cossotto, Ghiaurov and Cappuccilli sing wonderfully and leave me breathless.
Caballe sings the part of Aida perfectly and with dramatic tension. Just listen to her "Ritorna vincitor!" and to the duet with her father, ideally portrayed by Cappuccilli (I also admire Gobbi's interpretation of the role).
Placido Domingo gives us one of his best perfomances as Radames, the Egyptian general who falls in love with the poor Ethiopian slave. His "Celeste Aida" is one of the highlights of this performance.
Fiorenza Cossotto gives an equally good performance of Amneris, the Egyptian princess. Her duet with Radames in the last act can give you a good impression of her vocal and dramatic abilities.
Te rest of the cast is very good too. I admire Ghiaurov's unique bass voice as well as Cappuccilli's. Muti conducts in tempo and appropriately.
I recommend this recording as a must-have "Aida" for every opera lover who respects himself.
on February 24, 2002
After doing some research on the different versions of this opera available out there, I decided to purchase this one. The box has "great recordings of the century" written on the side, and they're definitely not kidding. I don't know if it's the best one ever made, but it's certainly close. There's absolutely no weakness in this version, it has everything. First, this is possibly the best cast version in terms of the soloists, Caballé is beyond belief in the title role, with her beatiful singing and her trademark pianissimos. Domingo's voice is perfect for Radamés, and he sings his heart out throughout. Ghiaurov is a dignified and magnificent Ramfis, and he posseses one of the most unusual and unique bass voices I have ever heard. The rest of the cast, composed of Cossotto, Cappuccilli and Roni are all magnificent as well in their respective roles. In short, this version features some of the best singers of the past century, at the pinnacle of their careers.
Of course, you have to mention the conductor. Muti is one of the top Verdi conductors of our time, and he does a marvelous job in this one. The sound of the orchestra is always crisp and beautiful, a perfect balance of grandeur and delicacy. As it says in the CD's booklet, the singers in this version (or at least Placido Domingo) consider a piano rehearsal with Muti quite an experience. The choral parts are also very well crafted.
To sum it up, if you're an opera buff, this is probably a title of which you'll want more than one version. This one is definitely a must in your collection, and if you were to pick only one recording of this opera to listen to for the rest of your life, I'd recommend this one.
on October 18, 2001
I can't remember how long I've wanted this CD for, but it's always been pricy - thank goodness for this affordable release. For me this is the Aida of choice though in a field with many, many good recordings I can hardly claim this to be true of everyone.
For a start, this is a big house, big sound recording. The quality is excellent but it could never be mistaken for a chamber opera. The orchestral playing is big, big, big which isn't thye same as loud, loud, loud. The sound is always opulent and Muti's tempi are wonderfully judged - there never seems to be a rush or a hiatus, and the dance music is as interesting as I've heard it. Choral singing is always exemplary. Truly a benchmark for Verdi conducting.
But Aida stands and falls by its soloists, in particular the ladies, and this one stands. Caballe has it all - a steely edge for the big moments and for riding the ensembles (something I've always missed about Price), a phenomenal dynamic range that noone before or since has matched (who wouyldn't kill to produce a top C like hers in the Nile Aria?) and an overwhelming sense of sadness that comes across infallibly in her solo moments. Some might wish for a bigger voice for an Aida but surely noone could imagine a more vivid and fascinating one. Fiorenza Cossotto sounds unnervingle like Caballe especially in her big moments - the Act 2 Scene 1 duet is a good case in point and makes fascinating listening. But she holds her own especially in the trial scene and sounds fresher than many an Amneris whilst lacking nothing in fullness of tone. Domingo's Radames is well known - less imaginative than a Vickers, less beautiful than a Corelli, but always noble and committed. Cappucilli is a stern and scary Amonasro, no match for his daughter in subtlety but not to be trifled with, whilst the reat of the cast is well in place.
Yes, I feel that this is the Aida to have especially for fanbs of Caballe. But for Price-worshippers, Callas-worshipers, Vickers-worshippers and their ilk - you may be looking elsewhere.
on February 5, 2002
This new remastered Cd (excellent sound from Abbey Road studios) is probably THE Aida worth bying becuase of Mutis conducting and an absolutly fantastic Caballé. Domingo is also great... well EVERYBODY is absolutly top.
This is a mid price record but no full price Aida records could match this one more than maybe Abbados on DG, but then you miss Caballés fantastic voice on Abbados DG version.
You get five of operas top singers on this one and as mentioned above... Muti is great with Verdi and its no coincidence he rules La Scala.
Considering this great cast and great perforformance togheter with excellent sound and a more than a fair price, this is my choice for Aida, if I has to choose ONE.
If you still prefer DG sound as I normally do and DDD go for Abbado but this remastered EMI version has a fantastic sound too and give full justice to a GREAT opera, as Aida in my opinion is (one of Verdis must have), to all great singers and to a great orchestra.
on September 8, 2002
I think I was in love with Aida even before I could understand anything, even before I could walk. The music did it to me.