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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I suppose that today this film has relevance because it was an early
Sofia Loren film. She was 19 years old when the film was made in 1953.
I viewed this film because I wanted to see some of Sofia Loren's early work. I was surprised when she came on camera having had her skin bronzed over in brown makeup to resemble an Ethiopian princess. Surely, today, this would have been viewed as a slur and to be avoided in movie making. It actually became annoying watching Ms. Loren in skin color paint throughout the film.
Yes, this film would have been better made if the real opera singers had made this movie. Then, the singing and the actual facial gestures of the real artists would have been apparent. I discount the comments by others about whether the real opera singers are older and heavier in weight.
As beautiful as Ms. Loren was at age 19 and still is today, the film would have been better received as though it were being performed on the stage. After all, we don't see beautiful young people on stage with "old opera singers" back stage singing from behind the curtain! Do not discount the success of using heavy-weight opera singers. One only has to refer to the most artistically produced television commercial for the J. G. Wentworth Company with the opera singers on stage singing so professionally the praises of the company's product. This is one of the best and entertaining TV commercials produced to date.
The quality of the movie print also makes this production of a somewhat lesser quality. The color ink has faded much and that can not be helped.
To improve this film on DVD the production company should add English language subtitles so that we, who do not speak Italian, can know what the lyrics are saying. It would help the story and teach it more than the narrator giving 30 seconds of introduction to the scenes.
Watch this film not because of the story of Aida nor the fact that this is an opera. Aside from Ms. Sofia Loren none of her co-actors are known nor remembered by this writer. Instead, watch this movie if you are a fan of Ms. Loren and wish to see her at age 19 -- no matter what the production is.
Larry from Illinois
On paper this looks like a dream of an opera. The voices of Tebaldi and Campora being mimed by Loren and Della Mara on a big screen production, its just got to be sublime, hasn't it? Unfortunately it fails miserably. Loren is simply lost in her role;Tebaldi would have been far better but I suspect she had read the final draft of the screen play, and Della Mara looked more toy-boy than rugged hero. Wait! there is still Verdi's music allied to those wonderful voices,yes they are there if you like your opera in snatches and excerpts, but if not you will quickly lose patience. For example I just happen to believe that one of the most glorious pieces of music is the Nume custode in the first act of Aida. Radames is in the temple and receives the sword and insignia which he dedicates to Ra for the forthcoming battle. The scene is a magnificent Bass-Tenor-Chorus ensemble; opera at its finest. Do not look for it in this film, it is cut, no tenor no chorus just a perfunctory handing over of the sword. Here you are son- Cheers guvnor. No this will not do, it is pretty dire stuff for any poor soul who thinks this might be a half decent stab at bringing opera to the screen
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.
I'm amazed we see even one nay-sayer criticizing this old film. We don't ordinarily get good opera films, and here is a true grand opera rendition. Understandably, the visuals are not great. It's dated. But as opera it can't be faulted; and I'm an opera buff. I can't even detect one lip-sync; if we didn't know that was Tebaldi in the audio nothing would convince me it isn't Sophia Loren. She does EVERYTHING with flair! Her dark makeup is fine; and she brought the role to gorgeous life! The rest of the cast is wonderful, as is that stunning ballet troupe. Most of the actors are excellent; Loren truly marvelous. Her rival Amneris is also terrific. Whoever didn't care for this 1953 job is shamefully remiss. Verdi would have enjoyed it! Naturally, Renata Tebaldi as Aida is the engine behind the scenes. I love this old movie!
The whole point of making this film, one of the earliest and best international color releases of cinematic opera, was to make it more accessible to the masses. And it succeeded admirably in doing so. The general public would not sit still for a love story about two young exotic lovers in ancient Egypt if played by the typical 300 pound over 40 tenor and soprano with the vocal equipment to sing the glorious music properly. Hence the visual substitution of the beautiful principals (a young Loren, handsome Della Marra, and a slinky Ms. Maxwell)who make the story much more believable, giving those not familiar with the plot or the music a better chance at being wooed into the lovely arias who otherwise might not be. Altogether, an enchanting introduction to one of Verdi's great works. I remember seeing this when I was in junior high school and it certainly awakened my interest in opera, a form with which I was then not well acquainted. I still regard this film fondly and would recommend it highly to those who might appreciate the great music accompanied by better than average visuals. Luciano Della Marra was a standout as Radames, and unfortunately for audiences did not appear in any other films.
This was a film I really wanted to love, I adore Verdi's opera and
Renata Tebaldi, Ebe Stignani and Gino Becchi a great deal. This Aida
was interesting in a sense for historical value, but it didn't work for
Granted, despite the score being cut/shortened, the music is brilliant. Renata Tebaldi sings Aida absolutely wonderfully, Ebe Stignani is a compelling Amneris and Gino Becchi a powerful Amonasro. Rhadames is sung very nicely too, Guilio Neri is one of the better Ramfis's I've heard and Sophia Loren looks beautiful and gives her all to what she's got.
However, the film does look dated. The costumes are alright, but the sets in alternative to grand are rather cheesy and the editing and picture quality look tacky. Despite such amazing music and singing, the film feels rather dull, some of the best dramatic elements are either cut or badly underplayed especially the Bass-Tenor chorus ensemble, the choreography looks unimaginative, the lip-synching is pretty much a disaster with the lip movements rarely being in sync to the singing, and there are some unnecessary added scenes too which add nothing to the story. The on-screen acting apart from Loren and perhaps Afro Poli is lacking too, Rhadames is bland and seemingly unheroic, but Lois Maxwell fares worse, her acting throughout is very awkward.
All in all, rather disappointing. 4/10 Bethany Cox
Sophia Loren plays Aida, in one of the worst films of all time. She can't lipsync. In terms of production values, the film is so bad, that at one point, while Loren is mouthing "O Patria Mia," she leans onto what looks to be a stone wall for support, and the canvas set billows and shakes.
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