Verdi - Aida
Filmed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Daniela Dessì, Elisabetta Fiorillo, Fabio Armiliato, Juan Pons and Roberto Scandiuzzi lead the cast in the renowned period production filmed in 2003 against the historic paper trompe-l'oeil sets painted between 1936-45 by Josep Mestres Cabanes, the last representative of the old Catalan school of scenography. Mestres Cabanes worked on his Aida vision for eight years. The opulent staging he created in 1945 is here in every detail. The seven magnificent sets he painted for Aida in 1945 have been subtly and painstakingly restored by Jordi Castells and his team - revealing the palaces, temples and surroundings of Memphis and Thebes which the set designer had wanted to evoke in his historical yet also fantasy-like vision.
These fascinating sets are not just realistic - but also magical in the theatrical sense. Mestres Cabanes loved the theatre which he had been exploring for over a quarter of a century. His sets are dramatic and visceral, conceived for stage action, conveying the dynamic tensions proper to each part of the work – intimate, epic, severe, sensual, troubled and tragic.
‘AIDA Returns in
La Vanguardia, Barcelona (Translation)
Rating: - A Beautiful Production of 'Aïda' from Barcelona
Fabio Armiliato, a fairly young man who is now singing in all the biggest houses. His tenor is just one notch below that of the best, but he manages it well, his acting is excellent and his appearance (he's tall and trim, and has devilish good looks) helps the effect. This is a video of a live performance and he, like many tenors, isn't at his peak for his big aria at the very beginning, 'Celeste Aïda,' but he warms up nicely and by the time of the Nile scene and the Dungeon scene the voice is ringing out heroically; he is also capable of nuanced soft singing. Daniela Dessì is a known quantity. She has been a leading Verdi soprano for years, and she shines here. Again, like Armiliato, she warms up after Act I and by Act II and beyond the singing is thrilling. Both the duet with Amonasro in the Nile scene and the aria and duet in Act IV are scrumptious, delicately shaded and featuring some pianissimi that gave me goose-bumps.
AIDA and TOSCA DVD by OPUS ARTE-BBC
One hardly needs to point out that these two masterpieces are not only among their respective composers' most popular operas, but among the most popular on the world's stages today. Both productions here feature Daniela Dessi and Fabio Armiliato in the lead roles, and in both they sing beautifully and with the requisite dramatic skills. But the pair hardly dominate the proceedings, since they are surrounded by many talented singers in these well-cast efforts. Moreover, there is so much to admire in the production values here that the ear is often distracted by what captivates the eye: both Opus Arte issues give you better than front-row seats with their splendidly-realized camera work.
Aida was recorded in July, 2003 in Liceu at the Gran Teatre, while Tosca comes from performances in January, 2004, at Madrid's Teatro Real. Aida is more colorfully staged, with brighter sets, lots of pageantry and a more epic sense, while Tosca is appropriately darker, both in lighting and in its overall tragic character. What might be a little controversial in the Tosca here is stage director Nuria Espert's decision to portray Scarpia as a Bishop. I'm not sure why the police chief was given cleric's robes, but the character transformation does not damage the dramatic thrust of the story.
As suggested above, the singing in both operas is excellent. The big numbers especially come off well: in Tosca Fabio Armiliato's Recondita Armonia is beautifully performed, while Raimondi's Tre sbirri is tremendously effective and Dessi's Vissi d'arte powerfully moving. The other cast members are also convincing, and the orchestra and chorus respond with spirit and polish to Maurizio Benini's incisive baton. The sound is vivid.
In Aida, the lead singers are also quite effective . The choral work was especially excellent too: try the atmospheric singing at the opening of Act 3 or the triumphant Su! Del Nilo al sacro lido near the end of the opera's first scene. Armiliato's Celeste Aida is beautifully sung and Dessi's O patria mia is equally moving, but then I could go citing further highlights of theirs. Juan Pons' Amonasro and Elisabetta Fiorillo's Amneris are also fully convincing and well sung. Miguel Ángel Gómez draws splendid playing from the orchestra and the sound is excellent.
Opus Arte offers a bonus with its Tosca set – substantial interviews with Dessi, Armiliato, Raimondi and conductor Benini. Of the fifteen or twenty DVDs I've reviewed in the last year or so, these two rank with the best, Zeffirelli's Carmen and Francesca Zambello's production of Prokofiev's War and Peace. Needless to say, despite the fact that you can find better (though not much better) Aidas and Toscas on CD, these two Opus Arte issues can be highly recommended.
Daniela Dessì phrases and shades her part with exemplary musicality and often ravishing pianissmi. Fabio Armiliato, a spinto of the old school offers the real thing in terms of tone, most notably in the final scene which he and Dessì make deeply moving.
Daniela Dessi's Aida is well-thought-out and handsomely sung, with nice dynamic shading and right-on intonation, albeit with a stentorian high-C at the end of "O patria mia". Tenor Fabio Armiliato, who sings exactly like Franco Corelli but without the dark, rich tone or visceral excitement, is a good Radames nonetheless, and he expresses both passion and tenderness.
The orchestral playing and particularly the choral singing of the Liceu's forces are exceptional, but conductor Miguel Angel Gomez Martinez does just about everything wrong in the pit. When tempos aren't dragging to a point of stasis, they're being sped up incomprehensibly, as at the end of the Triumphal Scene. The sound is big and vivid and the picture is worthy of the stunning production. And so, good enough singing, conventional attitude, lousy conducting, and a glory to behold--you be the judge as to whether this is for you.
CLASSICS TODAY --Robert Levine
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Last modified: dicembre 21, 2006