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Verdi;Giuseppe Aida

Maria Chiara , Juan Pons , Gianni Casalino    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 53.99
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La Scala went all out for its 1986 production of this grandest of grand operas, with a strong cast and, most important for a video recording, a larger-than-life staging. The Triumph Scene in Act II is by no means Aida's only attraction, but it is the part that makes the strongest and most lasting impression and it is the visual and musical climax of this production. Stage director Luca Ronconi brings on a procession to dwarf all processions: looted treasures, heroic statuary, miserable captives struggling under the lash of whip-bearing slave drivers. On par with these visuals is Lorin Maazel's first-class performance of the popular Grand March with the outstanding La Scala chorus and orchestra. In Act III, the contrasting tranquility of the Nile Scene also gets a visual treatment to match the music's qualities.

When it is not an epic spectacle, Aida is a tragic story of love, jealousy, and horrible revenge. The shifting focus between vast spectacle and intimate moments--sometimes awkward in a live performance onstage--presents special opportunities and challenges for a video recording. In this Aida, the camera work shows an acute awareness of those opportunities and challenges.

The soloists have a variety of strengths that outweigh a few small weaknesses. Luciano Pavarotti sings one of his signature roles in superb voice, but his weight problems are visually evident and detract from his impact as the dashing hero Radames. Maria Chiara has moments of vocal imperfection but gives a dramatically compelling performance. Ghena Dimitrova sings powerfully and the supporting cast is excellent throughout. --Joe McLellan

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Out-Heroding Aida Oct. 21 2003
The singing was wonderful, but the staging ranged from distracting to hilarious.
You like slaves? This production has them in abundance, cluttering up the action, groaning and moaning as they pull and push stones and monuments like a pack of crack-smoking ants. They were especially annoying in the triumphal scene, where the chorus could barely squeeze on stage, cowering in the background while the over-acting wretches took center stage. (Hey slaves! Triumphal celebration going on! Take five!)
It was also kind of weird in Act I, Scene II, where the rocks just popped up out of the ground, noisly banged about, and occasionally formed,one assumes, significant shapes.
Act II, Scene I was bizarre. First, there were topless women "bathing." Let me tell ya, topless women are always a distraction, except in a topless bar, and even there they distract. What was the point of them here? Second, while most ballets in this scene feature the usual gaggle of Egyptian girls "walking like an Egyptian," they changed it up a bit by having young boys--very young boys!--hopping about in thongs, while being whipped by some old dudes. (Speaking of pointless, don't miss the entrance of Radames in the Act II, Scene II, with the scantily clad young hunk standing over him, ready for action.)
Finally, Herr Pavarotti was big enough; hanging curtains on him only added to the effect. (One could almost hear the slaves lamenting, "We can pull the sphinx across the stage, but not that tenor!")
It is also noted that the once discriminating La Scala audience fell for this MTV approach like wrestling fans marking out to a Hulk Hogan pose down.
All in all, an absurd and sterile desecration of Verdi's opera.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Aida to treasure. June 28 2002
A cast like this is practically impossible to find or replicate today. Pavarotti and Dimitrova were in their prime (the latter would "progress" to the Aida rôle shrotly afterwards) and Maria Chiara, in spite of a tentative start, amply shows that she still was in very fine form, her portrayal soon growing into a warmth and securenes seldom seen. The Ronconi production was spectacular and shed some of the traditions that tended to be the norm (like dancing, remember the ballets were asked for by Verdi to accomodate Parisian tastes when the original production moved from Cairo to Europe) and thence you will encounter the ballet music firstly to accomodate pranks by kids who brusquely interrupt the languor and peacefulness of Amneris's bath, and later to accompany some heavy labouring by slaves in the triumphal scene. Mazzel's conducting is precise and to the point, the La Scala orchestra irreproachable as is also the very idiomatic chorus. And what's more, to have Ghiaurov, Buchuladze and Pons to support Pavarotti, Chiara and Dimitrova as Amonasro, the Paraoh and Ramfis was a splendid luxury only a theatre like La Scala could attract. The opera was recorded live some 15 years ago and, along with the Met's rival version with Millo and Domingo on a DG dvd, belong in any collection. You can't go wrong with either, although I'd slightly prefer this La Scala production, in spite of the lack of ballet criticised by some colleague reviewers. And don't mind the (for me unobtrusive) nudity that accompanies the Amneris' bath scene: after all, it's only natural that people undress to bathe!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous but it has its problems May 27 2002
This is a fabulous opera. It is nothing compared to the Broadway production. Despite Luciano Pavarotti's weight, he has an amazing voice and is perfect for the role of Radames. Maria Chiara makes a wonderful Aida. Ghena Dimitrova is a fabulous Amneris. I just wish they mentioned her character by name. The sets are amazing. I think it is amazing how they managed to fit the exterior of the Temple of Vulcan beneath the stage. I think one of the pillars looked like Louis Armstrong. Watch for that pillar. The guy who plays Amonasro looked so convincing, you would have thought he was actually African American. Mind you, this was the first time I saw that guy. I've heard that he's really white. Even though I give it 5 stars, I have three complaints. One is major and two are minor. The major one is the first scene of Act II. It's Nudist City in that scene. There are naked women exposing their you-know-whats in front of millions of opera patrons. To make matters worse, one minute you're getting over the shock of naked women, suddenly, the Moorish Slave Dance starts up and naked kids run on stage. Some may have been wearing jewelry that covers up their middle areas but their tushies are still exposed. It is a crime for women and children to expose themselves in public. My three minor complaints are the subtitles that go ok at the beginning of the opera but get quirky after Ramfis exits. They either show up, show up too late, or don't show up at all. My second minor complaint is the outfit that Aida wore in her final scene. Why did she get dressed up just to die with Radames. Did she want to look beautiful when archaeologists found the tomb. She and the mothers of the Moorish children should have protested about the costumes. It's too late now but still, that bawdy headdress looked too vibrant for a tomb. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Gran Aida.
A nivel general esta es una gran version de Aida, comenzando por la puesta en escena de LUCA RONCONI, bella y coherente visualmente en todo momento, sin los alardes tipicos de la... Read more
Published on Oct. 26 2003 by Annio
3.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable, but has its strong points
1. If you know the opera very well and can handle the Italian, tough. There's no way to get Italian subtitles (at least on the edition of this DVD sold in... Read more
Published on April 23 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Pavarotti and Chiara in CONCERT!
This is an incredible Aida for Luciano Pavarotti. I have never heard him in such a good voice for a dramatic tenor role. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Posing is not the Same as Acting
Of course, in opera the voice has to be the first priority. Perhaps we have come too much today to expect the singers to look good, but the fact is that an opera is different from... Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's Price when you need her....
good production--radames was too big--maria was a o.k. aida-- she did too many hand movements--it was distracting---the costumes were awful--as a black man i was offend by the... Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars opera
only opera for example :aida , la traviata, la boheme
Published on June 26 2000 by levent
2.0 out of 5 stars A glorious high school production
This production of Aida should, unlike small children, be heard but not seen. One imagines that, having paid for Mr. Read more
Published on April 26 2000 by C. R. Pitasi
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Voices, Good Performance
I agree with the viewer from Stone Mountain, Georgia, that this opera was a great performance as far as orchestra, chorus, and voices are concerned. Read more
Published on March 5 2000 by Beach guy
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Singing, Poor Dancing, but Nevertheless a Good Buy
While I immensely enjoyed this performance it gets only 4 stars from me because of poor ballet. Aida earned the appellation as the grandest of all grand operas from a synthesis of... Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars Very clumsy in providing subtitles!
With such great artists as Luciano Pavarotti and Juan Pons, the performance itself was wonderful to have more than 5 stars. However... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2000 by Young Seok Park
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