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Fading epic

Author: Gyran from Birmingham, England
14 December 2007

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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Mostly very good

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
14 July 2011

I love Aida as an opera, and I liked this production a good deal. The costumes and sets are grand and lavish, however the picture quality is grainy and the video directing does look dated at times. However the story is as dramatic as ever, the characters compelling and the music sublime.

When it came to the staging, I was very impressed overall, especially with the tear-jerker that is the final scene and the ballet. The orchestra is fine mostly, if having the odd uncomfortable moment and as phenomenal it sounded had a tendency to overpower Estes during his big moment in Act 3, likewise with the conducting though it can plod sometimes.

The performances are very good. Luciano Pavarotti is in great voice and makes for a heroic Rhadames. Margaret Price is wonderful as Aida, and acting-wise and vocally Simon Estes is a powerful Amonasro. Kurt Rydll is chillingly effective as Ramfis, however my favourite was the performance of Amneris sung and acted brilliantly by Stefania Toczyska.

Overall, very good mostly. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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A young Pavarotti in fine form

Author: Ezequiel from Quebec
18 December 2008

This production has a lot going for it, dated as it is. Pavarotti and Price are stunning vocally if not physically, but one soon forgets physical appearances when hearing such lyric beauty. Simon Estes is outstanding, and the ballet a delight, especially the star turn by Holder. Costumes are extraordinary, though I sometimes wondered how they kept those back-facing hats from falling off (!). Musical pacing is a bit slow in parts, and the orchestra has a few uncomfortable moments, but on the whole the production succeeds, largely because of the outstanding cast. This production will stand the test of time, owing to the documentary value of Pavarotti in his prime.

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