A Marmoreal Aida and an Untranslated Extra Documentary
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 06/11/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a video of a 1985 La Scala performance of Aida with Luciano Pavarotti as Radamès, Maria Chiara as Aïda, Ghena Dimitrova as Amneris, Juan Pons as Amonasro, Nicolai Ghiaurov as Ramfis and Paata Burchuladze as the King. It has been released several times before: Verdi - Aida / Maazel, Chiara, Pavarotti, La Scala or Verdi / Pavarotti / Chiara / Dimitrova / Ghiaurov / Pons - Aida (1985). And it is a pretty good performance hampered by a production that has elements of gigantism (and I don't just mean Pavarotti, who is indeed as large as he ever was in this production), left-wing commentary about imperialism (lots of poor slaves suffering), unnecessary humongous statuary that the poor slaves have to keep moving about, naked women (in the opening of Act II) followed by naked Nubian boys. The singing is impressive all round.
However, the draw for this particular package was supposed to be the contemporaneous South Bank Show (BBC, hosted by Melvyn Bragg), entitled 'Aïda File - The Making of Aïda', which unfortunately has great chunks of untranslated (or un-subtitled) Italian by such personages as Carlo Bergonzi, Renata Tebaldi, Pierluigi Petrobelli and the production's director, Luca Ronconi. Why there are no subtitles or English voice-overs I have no idea. But there you are. Frustrating in the extreme for this monolingual American viewer, I can tell you.
If you understand Italian this package might be for you. Otherwise I'd suggest, if you're interested in owning this particular production, that you buy one of the less-expensive versions without the documentary.
Running time: Opera 160 mins, Documentary 72 mins; Sound: PCM Stereo, Dolby digital; Opera subtitles: German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish; Format: 4:3; Region Code: 0 (worldwide)