Aida, featuring the actress Sophia Loren, is a film adaptation of a theatre performance written by Verdi. The plot revolves around the character Radames who falls in love with what he ...
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Peter Mark Richman
Aida, featuring the actress Sophia Loren, is a film adaptation of a theatre performance written by Verdi. The plot revolves around the character Radames who falls in love with what he thinks is a slave in a country his armies has conquered. The young woman is actually the daughter of the leader he ousted. Written by
Now it comes alive on the screen! A grand drama of passion and power...of the love of two women for one man in ancient Egypt! A cast of thousands! Superb voices! Wonderful performances! One of the memorable experiences of your lifetime! See more »
Opera is a different stage art from spoken theatre, let alone theatrical films or television. Opera succeeds on its own terms or it doesn't signify at all. The "problem" with opera is not that opera singers are not as bodacious as film stars; the principal requirement in opera is that the musical drama be conveyed in musical as well as visual terms in a manner all its own, a stage mystery that is easier to experience than to analyse.
Non-musicians seldom understand this. They seek to graft on whatever expressive values they trade in within the medium they are familiar with, without understanding why and how opera works on its own, without their alien help.
Thus the woman who sings Amneris in the soundtrack of this film, Ebe Stignani (1903-1974) may have been, at 50, wider than she was tall and not Hollywood's idea of an appropriate screen figure, yet she was, even in 1953, an amazing Amneris, successful throughout the world in this, her greatest role, consistently making dramatic contact with her audiences through the musico-dramatic medium of Verdi's music. And she had been doing so since her debut (as Amneris), in 1925.
Lois Maxwell, who lip-syncs to Stignani's singing here, simply makes no impact, dramatic, filmic, musical or even sex-appealing. We KNOW that Stignani was a hugely successful Amneris without Maxwell. What does Maxwell add to Signani's Amneris through the medium of this film? Nothing at all.
A film that brought us, even at once removed, the greatness of a Stignani or a Renata Tebaldi, might have had some filmic justification. But this film, which adds nothing at all to what the singers had to contribute and rather detracts from it, is of no value.
What the film does underline is the limitations, cultural, visual, technological, of a merely mechanical medium. Everything about this film is ludicrously dated, except the singing of the great singers whom it pretended to "improve" all those long years ago.
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