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Maazel: Verdi – Aida (3 CD box set, APE)

Maazel: Verdi - Aida (3 CD, APE)
Maazel: Verdi – Aida (3 CD, APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 3 CD box set
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 606 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Radames – Luciano Pavarotti
Il re – Luigi Roni
Ramfis – Paata Burchuladze
Aida – Maria Chiara
Amneris – Ghena Dimitrova
Un messaggero – Ernesto Gavazzi
Amonasro – Leo Nucci
Sacerdotessa – Madelyn Renee

Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Giulio Bertola
Orchestra e coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Lorin Maazel

CD 01
01. Overture
02. Act 1 – Sì: corre voce che l’Etiope ardisca
03. Act 1 – “Se quel guerrier io fossi!..Celeste Aida”
04. Act 1 – Quale insolita gioia
05. Act 1 – Alta cagion v’aduna
06. Act 1 – Ritorna vincitor!
07. Act 1 – Possente, possente Fthà
08. Act 1 – Mortal, diletto ai Numi

CD 02
01. Act 2 – Chi mai fra gl’inni e i plausi
02. Act 2 – Fu la sorte dell’armi a’tuoi funesta
03. Act 2 – Su! del Nilo al sacro lido
04. Act 2 – Gloria all’Egitto, ad Iside
05. Act 2 – Marcia
06. Act 2 – Vieni, o guerriero vindice
07. Act 2 – Salvator della patria, io ti saluto
08. Act 2 – Che veggo!…Egli?…Mio padre!
09. Act 2 – Quest’assisa ch’io vesto vi dica
10. Act 2 – Ma tu, Re, tu signore possente
11. Act 2 – O Re: pei sacri Numi
12. Act 2 – Gloria all’Egitto, ad Iside

CD 03
01. Act 3 – O tu che sei d’Osiride
02. Act 3 – Qui Radames verrà!…O Patria mia
03. Act 3 – Ciel! mio padre!
04. Act 3 – “Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida”
05. Act 3 – “Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti”
06. Act 3 – “Tu…Amonasro!…tu!…il Re?”
07. Act 4 – L’aborrita rivale a me sfuggia
08. Act 4 – Già i Sacerdoti adunansi
09. Act 4 – Ohimè!…morir mi sento! Oh! chi lo salva?
10. Act 4 – Radamès! Radamès! Radamès!
11. Act 4 – “La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse”
12. Act 4 – “Presago il core della tua condonna”
13. Act 4 – “O terra, addio; addio valle di pianti”

not magical, but a good-sounding solid performance

A solid performance in good sound from Decca, but my overall impression is that it is less engaging than it could be. Partly, the engineering is at fault — the voices are a bit too much to the fore, and perhaps as a result, the blend in the ensembles doesn’t come across, at least it doesn’t on my pretty decent Bose headphones. I also should say that I don’t own the very latest iteration of this recording, and it’s possible that a remastering has improved things a bit. All that said, though, the voices sound good, and if chorus and orchestra are a little more remote, they can be heard fine, and the choral sound especially lets the individual parts be clearly heard. So –while I’m not totally happy with the sonics, there is much to like too.

Maazel, whom I admire, conducts at a good clip, and one might argue that his pacing works against the needs of the singers to be expressive. In fact, though, the only singer to disappoint in this regard is Pavarotti, whose singing is pretty straight, and I wondered if his relative inexperience in this role had something to do with that. He sounds fine — it’s always a pleasure to hear that voice — but he does force a little to get the requisite weight of sound, and while there’s never an ugly moment, his voice loses some of its natural warmth and sweetness as he essays this heavier part (in a way that Bergonzi’s and Domingo’s voices do not). Both basses, King and High Priest (Roni and Burchuladze respectively), sound wonderful, but are almost too prominent in the aural picture. Leo Nucci is an engaged and effective Amonasro.

The women are both strong, Dimitrova as Amneris particularly so. She has gusty moments when she reins in her big voice for the lyrical stuff (like the beginning of Act 2), but when implacability is called for, she’s powerful, and the voice has considerable warmth and beauty. And Maria Chiara is really good — one would like to have heard her ten or 15 years earlier, but her expressiveness isn’t hindered at all by Maazel’s tempi, and while the voice lacks both the beauty and the focus of Tebaldi at her best, she knows how to use it, and the complaints of some reviewers of shrillness seem overblown. The vibrato can loosen a bit at moments of stress, but so can Dimitrova’s, and the the tricky phrasing of “O Patria mia” is expertly handled. Maazel’s feeling for the orchestral color in the third act is outstanding. He sounds more interested in finding the colors there than he does in finding some swagger for the Triumphal Scene, which has plenty of presence but keeps you in your seat.

All in all, I’m glad to have this — it’s the only recording of Maria Chiara that I own, and while Pavarotti (like Carreras) probably has no business singing this role, I’m still glad to have heard him in it too.

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