This new Blu-ray disc on Unitel Classica/C Major is part of a series of the complete operas of Verdi. Not surprisingly, there are quite a number of performances of Aïda on video. I've reviewed three others here previously: an BBC Opus Arte DVD with Daniela Dessi as Aïda (BBC Opus Arte OA0894D); the Franco Zeffirelli-directed production on TDK with Adina Aaron in the title role (TDK DVUS-AIDDBM); and a Euroarts DVD with a largely no-name cast featuring Eszter Sümegi as Aïda (EuroArts 2054058).
Each of these has its strengths: the Euroarts is quite a lavish production (it's an open-air affair featuring horses, elephants and large-scale ballet sequences), while the Zeffirelli effort offers young but excellent singers, and the BBC Opus Arte is a solid production all around with fine singing.
This new offering on C Major trumps all three in the quality of its stage production, but not necessarily in its singing. Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, it features lavish costumes, fine lighting and excellent ballet sequences. But it's the sets that are extraordinary: there are huge temples, regal columns, exotic-looking foliage and wide ornate steps on center stage with elaborate hieroglyphics. It's a visual extravaganza, to be sure, and a quite traditional treatment of the opera that I think most admirers of Verdi would find to their liking. On the technical side the sound reproduction and camera work are first-rate. If every opera had production values like this one's, we'd all be regularly lining up for tickets.
Most of the singers are good too – good but not necessarily great. Susanna Branchini makes a strong Aïda, and is probably the best singer in the cast. Her O patria mia is nicely sung, though the audience was not very enthusiastic in their applause. Yet, during curtain calls at the end she drew the most applause. The Amneris of Marianna Pentcheva, while dramatically fine and generally convincing, is vocally a little shaky, as her voice can settle into wobble. Walter Fraccaro is an effective Radames, but not especially memorable. The rest of the cast is at least adequate, and the orchestra delivers a reasonably good performance under conductor Antonino Fogliani. Thus, on the musical side this performance probably rates above average, perhaps garnering a B or B+.
So, depending on your taste, this may be a very desirable issue, especially if its high production values and visual splendor appeal to you.
Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings