I highly recommend this production of Aida. I have seen several of the Bregenz operas and have found them all to be enjoyable -- none of them is a clear first choice in that each is "risky" and has casts that can not vocally match the best of the competition. Nevertheless, as a total entertainment package, I have found these productions to be far superior to most opera DVDs. One of the reasons is that the stage is an enormous platform on the edge of a lake; the productions are filmed at dusk, so the background darkens as the opera proceeds which allows for some striking lighting effects. (I would urge anyone unfamiliar with this venue to sample one of the excerpts that can be found at Youtube.) The orchestra is out of sight (literally that is), and the singers are miked. In general, the balance between orchestra and singers is pretty good.
Ok, on to this Aida. If you're primary love is top notch vocalism, then you may want to put on your CDs (lots of good ones avaible such as Milanov/Bjorling/Perlea for the best voices or, perhaps, Nilsson/Corelli/Mehta if you want to be nailed to the back of your chair). The 4 principals in this production are certainly adequate; Aida and Amneris are up to the task; Radames gets better as the evening progresses; Amonasro is less memorable (but the role is pretty thankless anyway). For me, the final scene was worth the price of admission because the vocalism and staging come together to create a powerful conclusion. What is undoubtedly most controversial about this production is the staging. Words can't do it justice; as with other Bregenz productions, there is an element of Cirque de Soleil in the staging with scads of extras, dancers, and acrobats. Although the characters wear Egyptian hats and masks, their clothing is otherwise modern; indeed, Amneris prances about dressed for a cocktail party or an evening on the town. Moreover, Verdi's Egyptian setting has been transformed to the U.S. with a partial Statue of Liberty as the dominant set piece. (Heck, the Ark of the Covenant also makes an appearance but, alas, no Indiana Jones.) The Americans/Egyptians are clearly intended to be a corrupt or decaying empire that has enslaved others (prisoners are hooded and leashed). Some may find this offensive; others trite. Although the parallel between the American empire and the Egyptian one is forced at times, the juxtaposition of the pomp of the victors with the oppression of the vanquished is well done and, who knows, may stimulate some thought among viewers. Finally, I should note that this production is not an example of egregious Regietheater, where some narcissistic director runs amok with a personal interpretation that is unfathomable to the audience. Whether you agree with the director or not, the vision is coherent and understandable. 5 stars for staging and overall entertainment; 3-4 for vocals and orchestra.