Glory on the Nile
gheeter2 | Jamestown, NC United States | 06/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording represents a 1999 production from Naples' Teatro San Carlo, and from this performance it is clear why Verdi's 1871 masterpiece is one of opera's most popular works. Conductor Daniel Oren keeps the tempos brisk, maintaining the dramatic tension but allowing the tender lyric moments to shine as they should; the orchestra plays the glorious score very well. The singing is uniformly excellent, with the women contributing the strongest performances. Fiorenza Cedolins is a name unfamiliar to me, but I certainly look forward to hearing more from her; she gives a complete performance of the title role. Her acting nicely portrays Aida's gentle frailty, and she skillfully controls her beautiful lyric-spinto soprano to display dynamics ranging from stirring fortissimo to melting pianissimo. The only big name in the cast is American mezzo Dolora Zajick, whose Amneris is also seen in the 1981 Metropolitan Opera production of the same opera, currently also avainable on DVD. Here she shows considerable growth in her portrayal, managing to emphasize Amneris' softer aspects as well as the imperious nature of the Egyptian princess. Her singing is rich and opulent, as we have come to expect from this excellent artist. The men are not quite up to the standard of the ladies, but all four are excellent. The staging is conventionally acceptable, but in some of the scenes the stage appears to get rather crowded. The Triumphal Scene is done as a parade through a narrow section in the center of the stage, definitely giving a cramped feeling. The sets and costumes are quite stunning, firmly conveying the setting of ancient Egypt, with many sumptuous details. There are a few awkward camera angles, but the singers are mercifully free of distracting mannerisms, both physical and vocal, even in closeup shots.The production engages a suitable degree of spectacle, but still manages to focus on the human drama of the love triangle between Aida, Radames and Amneris. All factors considered, this is a very satisfactory representation of this most beloved opera, and I highly recommend it to experienced operaphiles and interested novices alike."