This is a recording of the first night of La Scala's new production of Aida performed in front of an ecstatic celebrity audience. As everyone knows, at the second performance when they let in the real opera fans, Roberto Alagna was booed during Celeste Aida and refused to continue with the performance. I think I rather agree with the second night audience's judgement, although I do not for a moment condone their methods. Alagna's voice is rather lightweight for the role of Ramades. In Celeste Aida he runs out of breath but he does sound good in the lower register.
The production has an unimpressive Aida, sung by Violeta Urmana. Her In Questa Patria left me cold. Rather better is Ildiko Komlosi's Amneris and Carlo Guelfi's bat out of hell Amonastro. Franco Zeffirelli's sets are sensational but the production is dramatically unmoving. Part of the problem is that the television director seems to be uninterested in the drama. This is particularly evident in the badly lit final scene. The camera should be on Ramades and Aida but the director is more interested in showing us the scenery or focusing on an attractive temple maiden.
Most of us are rather sensitive these days about actors blacking up. We wince at the memory of Laurence Olivier as Othello or Alec Guinness in A Passage To India. I have noticed in several recent productions that they are not so sensitive in Italy. Here, Alagna looks ridiculous, stripped to the waist, covered in brown make-up with a pot belly and a chest wig. The balletic interludes are as embarrassing as ever, with lots of Italian dancers in chocolate-coloured body stocking prancing around like extras in King Solomon's Mines.
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