This is Sam Wanamaker's production for San Francisco Opera. It was dubbed the Cecil B DeMille version at the time because of its Hollywood values and epic scale. At this distance in time it appears less than epic with a narrow aspect ratio, fuzzy colour photography and indifferent sound quality. The film is directed by the usually reliable Brian Large but in 1981 he only seems to have had two cameras available to him so we alternate between scenes shot from the back of the stalls and scenes shot from the side of the dress circle.
There is, however, a very strong cast from bottom to top. The two basses and baritone playing the King of Egypt, the High Priest and Amonasro provide a solid grounding. Ramades is not the ideal role for Luciano Pavarotti but he is at his best in the final, lyrical scene where he is dying with Aida. The treacly-voiced Stefania Toczyska has thrilling low notes as Amneris. Best of all is Margaret Price who voice has a bell-like quality when she is singing quietly at the top of her register.
The final scene with Pavarotti and Price quietly dueting as they suffocate in their tomb moved me to tears as usual. I wanted to suggest that they blow out their torches to preserve their oxygen supply but I was pleased to see that their torches did go out as they expired.
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