This film is of the 1999 production of Aida from the San Carlo opera house in Naples. I recently saw their 2000 production of Nabucco and was impressed by the high production values. The same applies here: there is a trompe l'oeil Egyptian set that seems to extend deep into the distance, elaborate costumes and a cast, if not of thousands, at least of hundreds. In contrast, the film was made by an Italian pay per view company and seems to have been done on a shoestring. The picture is fuzzy and the sound is distorted. The lighting is alternately garish and murky. In fairness, I watched this film on the Performance channel who know a lot about broadcasting on a shoestring, usually with a tin can at either end, so it is possible that the fault is with them rather than with the Italian producers.
Walter Fraccaro is a competent Ramades but Fiorenza Cedolins is a shrill Aida. She wears an afro wig and so much fake orange tan that when she stands against the sandstone scenery she is almost invisible. Her acting is muppet-like as is that of her rival Dolora Zajick as Amneris. Unfortunately, occasionally, this Amneris also sounds like Miss Piggy. I usually root for the evil Amneris when I see productions of Aida because she is the most three-dimensional character and has the most ravishing music in the final act. Not the way Miss Zajick plays it.
The most embarrassing sight of the evening is the dance of the Ethiopian slaves. These are Italian women wearing chocolate-coloured body stockings and afro wigs gurning and waving their arms around like fugitives from a minstrel show. This is the sixth production of Aida that I have seen and the first one that did not reduce me to tears in the final twenty minutes as Ramades and Aida expire. After it finished I had to get the Zeffirelli version down from my shelves and watch the final act again, just to confirm that I did not have an obstructed tear duct.
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