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Aida

4.5 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 14, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

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A compelling Aida, especially for those who revel in a virtuoso orchestra going through its paces. Under Karajan's baton, the Vienna Phil plays with breathtaking elegance and refinement, not perhaps the ideal attributes of a Verdian pit band but undeniably exciting, as are the conductor's tempo choices, often faster or slower than usual. In 1959, Tebaldi remained a great Aida even if she was in fresher voice for her earlier mono recording. Bergonzi is a characterful Radames, Simionato a terrific, full-bodied Amneris, and the rest of the cast vocally fine, if occasionally bland. The excellent transfer is better balanced than earlier releases of this recording, helping to earn its place among the choice Aidas on disc, though I prefer RCA's mono version with Milanov and Bjorling from 1955, also at midprice. But you can never have too many Aidas. --Dan Davis
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 14, 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00001IVQW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,627 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
This was the very first recording of AIDA that I ever listened to. I was a kid at the time, and I borrowed it from our public library (they lent records then, now it is CD's). I was overwhelmed by it. The one thing I did find weird was figuring out how to set my volume control, for the orchestra could be so soft you couldn't even hear it, then the next minute explode so loudly that the speakers buzzed.
Even in this wonderful remastering of the opera, I still find the orchestra has too much variation in sound between soft and loud. That is the way the conductor saw it (and he would get even worse in a later recording with Freni and Cararras). Still, the orchestra is a lush beautiful sound that simply drips with excitement and romance. Karajan in not my favorite conductor, and never has been. He does make the orchestra "sing" but he is often so wrapped up in small details he obscures the whole. Still, in this opera he is wonderful (even if the dynamics are a bit over the top).
Tebaldi is wonderful, and it is quite easy to see why she pleased so in this role. Some people have said she was past her prime when she recorded this role, and they base that on the fact her high notes (the legendary high C in O Patria mia) were less than free. Though Tebaldi has some ravishingly lovely high B's and especially B flats, she was never secure on a high C. Sometimes it came beautifully, but more often than not it had its problems. Yet, judging an entire role on one note is a bit much.
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Format: Audio CD
The main virtues of this recording are already mentioned in other reviews: the brilliant orchestral playing, and the singing of the four principals. The singing isn't perfect--Tebaldi is a bit past her best (most noticeably in the notoriously difficult high note in "O Patria Mia"), and Bergonzi doesn't have the vocal heft and force of an ideal Radames. But overall, it's as strong a cast as can be found on any AIDA recording, with special mention going to the brilliantly sung and characterized Amneris of Giulietta Simionato. What makes the recording controversial is the sound.
For one view of producer John Culshaw's sound-balances, you can read the thoughtful and intelligent review below mine. But to my ears, the orchestra does not overpower the singers--rather, the singers are simply not placed unnaturally close-up, which is what happens in most operatic recordings. Instead the singers are kept at a fair distance from the microphones, allowing for something closer to an opera-house aural perspective. Yes, when the orchestra plays very loudly the singers can be difficult to hear, but that's exactly what would happen in the theatre (no one singer is loud enough to overpower a full orchestra). But there's no lack of power from the singers when needed; once you adjust your expectations--i.e. don't expect the voices to be placed far forward and the orchestra way backward--the glory of these voices comes through loud and clear. One tip: this recording needs to be played loudly to make its maximum (thrilling) impact--the opera-house balances tend to make the most sense at full opera-house volume.
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Format: Audio CD
My parents gave me this recording of AIDA for Christmas in 1971 when I was thirteen years old. I was already a pianist but was instantly bitten by the "opera bug" and listened to the complete performance while following the full orchestra score so many times that it had to be replaced several times. It affected the course of my entire life by introducing me to grand opera and caused me to seek out as many other recordings of operas and singers as I could find and, as a result of this, I became a successful tenor, vocal coach, and piano accompanist. This is the recording that I would recommend over all others to introduce young people to grand opera. Renata Tebaldi's performance is the most beautifully sung interpretation of the title role out of the dozens of recordings which I have heard. Her interpretation is the best in terms of communicating the drama through voice alone and she gives priceless lessons in phrasing and tone color throughout--even while coping gorgeously with Karajan's ridiculously slow tempo for "O Patria Mia" which causes the aria to lose its rhythmic impulse and makes the ascent to high C unreasonably endless. I also love the beautifully sung Ramphis of Arnold Van Mill. An artist who made very few recordings, he creates a character of subtlety and mystery through great musical insight and the most uniquely beautiful and mellow bass voice which I have ever heard. Eugenia Ratti as the Priestess in Act One Scene Two creates absolute magic in her brief appearance. Her singing of this short but crucial part has never been approached on any other recording and is magically enhanced by the care given to her contribution by the London/Decca engineers.
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