Originally commissioned to celebrate the completion of the Suez Canal and the opening of Cairo’s new opera house, Verdi’s Egyptian epic Aida is here seen in a spectacular new staging in the Teatro Regio Torino by the Oscar-winning American film director William Friedkin, creator of such famous movies as The Exorcist and The French Connection. The cast featuring the American soprano Kristin Lewis, who exhibits “a remarkable voice, which she uses with powerful dramatic instinct” (La Stampa), and the Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, whose Amneris “dominates the stage with her dark, rounded, irresistible voice and extraordinary stage presence” (La Gazzetta Musicale) is first-rate. All were united in praise of Noseda: “he controls everything - orchestra, singers, chorus, dancers, acrobats – with an all-encompassing overview” (La Stampa); “he knows exactly when it’s time to linger over a timbre, a colour, an expressive chord” (Corriere della Sera).
One of the most acclaimed musicians of his era, Toscanini was a conductor of the "old school" - aristocratic, perfectionistic and something of an autocrat on the podium. After a brief flurry of interest in Fascism in the 1910s, he rapidly became disillusioned with the movement and indeed became a personal rival of Mussolini, repeatedly antagonising him through acts of artistic defiance such as refusals to open concerts with the Fascist anthem Giovinezza.
Eventually he fled Italy for the United States, becoming the first conductor of the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he pioneered radio broadcasts and recordings that made him a household name in America until his retirement at the age of 87. He gave the premiere performances of several major works, including Barber's Adagio for Strings and the American premiere of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony.
This 2006 production from the Zurich Opera is a traditional one by Nicolas Joël in veteran Ezio Frigerio's wonderfully evocative, highly coloured sets. Then Adám Fischer in the pit leads a remarkably strong yet subtle account of the score, which – when played and sung like this – is once more revealed as one of Verdi's greatest masterpieces. Four of the principals easily surpass their DVD rivals. Stemme offers a deeply considered, expressive and superbly sung Aida, one for whom the work's vocal perils do not seem to exist. Add to that acting that goes to the heart of the matter, and one is left breathless in admiration after so many sopranos not truly fitted to the part. Licitra has done nothing better than his Radames here. At last fulfilling his potential, he sings the role with an open-hearted sincerity and a heroic voice up to the part's exigent demands.
This is the DVD that almost didn’t happen, thanks to Roberto Alagna’s now infamous walkout on the second night of this production. Trouble appeared to have been brewing with Alagna even before the prima , but opening night went well enough for him. Then, during the second performance, on December 10, Alagna received a negative reaction from certain members of the audience for his performance of “Celeste Aida.” He walked off stage and could not be persuaded to return, leaving Antonello Palombi (still in street clothes) to take over the performance for him. The Italian press and opera blogs had a field day with this incident…Raymond Tuttle
Early recordings of Franco Zeffirelli's 2006 production of Verdi's opera which saw Roberto Alagna's high-profile exit during the second performance. Egypt and Ethiopia are at war. Radames is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces by the King, whose daughter, Amneris, loves Radames. It is in fact Amneris' Ethiopian slave Aida whom Radames loves. Ramades wins the war against the Ethiopians, capturing Aida's father Amonasro in the process. On his return to Egypt he faces a choice between marrying Amneris or betraying his country through his love for Aida.