Cher Public

A desert breeze whispering a lullaby

The studio opera recording is a rare beast these days and its arrival always a cause for celebration. Its rarity also raises the stakes and invites scorn when the casting is dubious. Few things strike greater fear in the heart of an opera lover than the dreaded Andrea Bocelli announcement as part of a recording project. (What’s the point of getting Fleming, Borodina, and D’Arcangelo into the recording studio, putting up with Gergiev’s body odour, only to have the whole project doomed from the start?)  


Warner Classics’ new Aida is cause for joy not only because it is a major new release but because the studio seems to have got things right. The chief attraction here is the casting of the world’s dream couple of Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann as the leads. Add to the mix Antonio Pappano, one of the leading opera conductors of the day, and a fine supporting cast, and one has the ingredients for a valuable addition to the catalogue.

Harteros has one of the world’s most gorgeous voices by any measure. Her big, smooth, glowing soprano has been sending audiences reaching for superlatives for some 15 years. Though most of her success has come in the Mozart and German side of the repertoire, she has been gradually adding the Verdi heroines to her résumé, most recently in a high-profile Forza del Destino from the Bavarian State Opera (also with Kaufmann).

Harteros does not have a classically Italianate sound but it is not a particularly un-Italianate sound either. She has many of the qualities needed to do Verdi’s music justice, from her strong mid-register, soaring top, even tone, command of line, seamless legato, and pleasing phrasing. What she lacks is a strong chest voice (though to her credit, she doesn’t try to oversing to compensate) and the ability to float her high notes. At the end of “O patria mia”, she does a diminuendo on her high A, gradually pulling away the vibrato. The note hangs more than it floats but the effect is still appropriate. She achieves a similar effect in the soft high B-flat in the duet with Radames later in the act.

This is a beautifully and vividly sung Aida. And while there’s much beauty here, she is also attentive to the text and conquers all the dramatic requirements. She is urgent in “Ritorna vincitor”, anxious after challenging Amneris in in the second act, horrified when her father asks her to trick her lover, and firm when she urges said lover to flee. She sings with first-rate musicality and has all the notes. Even her less than penetrating low notes are solidly intoned. The notorious high C in “O patria mia” is neither soft nor loud but is still “dolce” as the score asks.  I had high expectations for the final duet, and she and Kaufmann do not disappoint, singing their farewell to life with touching lyricism.

The most popular tenor of the moment, Kaufmann has been celebrated for many things, among them his versatility. His tone and delivery may not lend itself naturally to French music but damn if his Werther isn’t terrific. For many, his baritone-coloured voice is best suited to the German repertoire where he is somewhat reminiscent of the great Jon Vickers. And he has had great success as Bacchus, Florestan, Lohengrin, Parsifal and Siegmund, among others. But for me, he is perhaps most essential in Verdi.

For much of the last 25 years, the opera world has been short on great Verdi voices. Things have been looking much more promising on the soprano side of late (thank you Sondra, Anna and Liudmyla!) but there has been no consistent Verdi tenor on the international scene since Placido Domingo started to retire his Verdi roles. Kaufmann has the vocal weight to sing Verdi’s great roles but also the musical and technical finesse needed to pull them off with style. Yes, people may complain that he lacks squillo (so did Domingo) but he has the ringing power needed to rise to the heroic demands of Verdi’s medium-to-heavy roles.

Radames has always been one of Verdi’s most difficult roles. It is his heaviest after Otello but also requires much soft singing which is where most tenors fall short. After my first hearing of Kaufmann’s “Celeste Aida”, I realised that, for the first time, the aria had come across as the dreamy evocation that (I assume) Verdi intended. And for once, I was not aware of the difficulty of the aria, so effortless is Kaufmann in this music. The diminuendo endings of the phrases are floated smoothly but when the music requires it, Kaufmann fills the music with vocal amplitude.

He takes the final line in one breath, singing the high B-flat in a lovely mezzo-piano and achieving a perfect “morendo”, as written in the score. Even the great Vickers cheats here and creates the reverse effect. For all his elegance, Jussi Bjoerling is rather blunt in that tricky ending, sneaking in a breath and doing nothing with the dynamic marking. Franco Corelli can pull off a spectacular diminuendo but lacks the elegance of line elsewhere. In meeting all the aria’s demands, Kaufmann puts down an interpretation for the ages.

In between the soft singing required at the beginning and end of the role, Kaufmann sings heroically yet always musically. He maintains long lines and does his most to bring a rather two-dimensional character to life. When summoned by Amneris in the fourth act, Kaufmann sings his first line as if emerging from deep thought, his attention obviously elsewhere. Though others have sung the role with greater vocal glamour (some have more squillo, others more sweetness of tone), this is as complete a role assumption as one could hope, fully responding to the musical and dramatic requirements.

Like many North Americans, I first came across Ekaterina Semenchuk in the Met HD broadcast of Boris Godunov, which made me glad for the inclusion of the Polish Act and wish that Marina were a larger role. Verdi features prominently in her active repertoire (especially in Europe) and here, she deploys her large-ish voice with sensitivity and a full range of dynamics. She is attentive to the text and has the temperamental mojo Amneris requires.

The most interesting part of her voice is the chest voice, which is alluring in tone and slightly reminiscent of Fiorenza Cossotto, one of the legendary exponents of the role. The voice grows less interesting as it ascends, losing colour on top. She has the high notes and holds them adequately without exactly thriving up there. Throughout, she sings with musical polish and dramatic commitment. But her work is not as distinctive as the other participants in the opera’s love triangle.

I must admit to being taken aback by the casting of Ludovic Tezier as Amonasro. There’s no doubt that he is one of the finest baritones singing today, with a handsome tone and an assured musical elegance. But while Tezier has been gradually making his mark in the big 19th century Italian roles, Amonasro is about as heavy as Verdi gets. With its low tessitura and the character’s aggressive, warrior persona, it is sometimes assigned to bass-baritones.

Once I put away my initial hesitation, I looked forward to hearing an elegantly sung Amonasro instead of a sneered or bellowed rendition. After all, Tezier has an appropriately dark tone which might allow him to put the role across successfully in studio conditions. My initial trepidation turned into a hope for a revelation of sorts but, unfortunately, that was not to be. Tezier is musical as usual but no more elegant than any other Amonasro in the lyrical passages such as the “Ma tu, Re” chorus or the final section of the third-act duet with Aida. And in the explosive mid-section of that duet, Tezier is less than explosive, overwhelmed by the orchestra and sounding a touch wobbly.

I was afraid that Erwin Schrott might be similarly overparted as Ramfis but was pleasantly surprised. To these ears, Schrott’s voice has grown since his Figaro days and satisfyingly fills out the grave and serious music Verdi gives him. No, he hasn’t transformed overnight into Nicolai Ghiaurov but his dark-coloured instrument has the gravitas and his singing the sweep necessary to pull off a satisfying Ramfis. I don’t know how he would fare in the role in the theatre but this studio effort is a success.

The King is given a routine interpretation by Marco Spotti, sounding surprisingly Slavic in tone. The High Priestess is interestingly cast by not just another high, silvery soprano. The young Eleonora Buratto has the beauty of tone and ease on top to sing the Sacerdotessa but there’s a depth to the voice that suggests that she might be heading for heavier assignments.

Pappano leads a dramatically alert and musically detailed account of the score. I wished for more old-school Italian blood and fire from the otherwise fine Orchestra dell’Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. In the orchestral tuttis, the brass are so soft-grained at times to make one wish for a touch of Solti’s vulgar brass. The Chorus of the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, however, does not disappoint in the old-school blood and fire department. And they sing with a splendidly uniform and penetrating sound, with the sopranos soaring particularly well. Kudos to Chorus Master, Ciro Visco.

So, how does this recording stack up in the catalogue? Those wanting old-school Italianata might not be interested. But those wanting a musicianly account of the opera that does not sacrifice dramatic alertness can find much to like from all the participants here. Mainly, this recording will be remembered—if it is remembered—for its two glamorous leads. Harteros and Kaufmann give thoughtful, engaging interpretations with vocal thrills and beauty.

  • Porgy Amor

    Are we going to be the first to comment on each other’s Parterre stuff on consecutive days? Well done! I look forward to hearing this, although I don’t think it is going to be muscle in on my five or so favorites.

    Does anyone here know if Tezier is okay? I had heard health-related whispers, and then there was a cancellation (for unspecified surgery) announced on another site. Rough year for the baritones.

    Schrott was well reviewed for Monfort in the Herheim/Pappano Vêpres, and damned if I could understand why. I guess he acted it well enough. He looked good in the dress. But there, in a big-boy bass role, his voice sounded shallow to me. I’ll approach his Ramfis with an open mind, though.

    • kennedet

      Thanks for the video, Ali. Watching the singers made me further realize the extreme expectations and demands the music,public and media demand from the opera singer. Here we had some of the tops in the field. Long may they prosper.

      • Kennedet: La Cieca added the video but I heartily endorse the inclusion of it. :)

        • kennedet

          Thanks and apologies all around to Ali, kashania and La Cieca.

    • Paysan Bleu

      Ludovic Tézier indeed had surgery but is recovering. See here for a recent English-language article : https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=844120952340981&id=170459016373848.
      I think that this is his first opera (November 2015) in which he will perform once again : http://www.theatreducapitole.fr/1/saison-2015-2016/opera-540/rigoletto.html?lang=fr

    • Rudolf

      @ Porgy Amor
      Just for the record … Erwin Schrott sang Procida. Michael Volle sang Montfort. :)

      • Porgy Amor

        Thanks. I had the right singer and performance in mind, but I guess I encounter that opera infrequently enough to get wires crossed in naming the characters. Volle’s Monfort I found quite good. He was not vocally well suited, but he brought a lot of personality and intelligence to everything he did. I see why Herheim apparently likes working with him.

  • armerjacquino

    What a terrific, detailed review. Thank you.

    • Cicciabella

      Just what I was about to write. Thank you, Mr Kashani.

    • ML

      Yes, *excellent* Kashania!

    • ipomoea

      +1.
      Me too.

  • Johnb

    This same cast sang a performance in Paris on February 27, 2015. It can be had from those who deal in live performances.

    • curzonproduct

      It was Rome, not Paris. I was there and a great evening it was, too. Looking forward to the recording!

    • Feldmarschallin

      Funny I thought I flew to Rome.

      • Rome, Paris… what does it matter. You’re everywhere. :)

  • I’m listening to Ms. Harteros sing Pace, Pace from last year and I hear a rather unwieldy vibrato, especially in louder passages. She has a lovely stage presence, though, and I would imagine in a theater, she would make a huge impression.

    • Feldmarschallin

      I am interested in which of the dates you heard this ‘unwieldy vibrato’ since I was at a total of 14 Leonoras (8+3+3), and never heard this.

  • javier

    Why Harteros and not Netrebko? Why? Makes no sense.

    • Feldmarschallin

      Maybe Pappano wanted the better Verdi singer. Good that he was doing the casting and not you.

      • Tamerlano

        Harteros is the better Verdienne? I’m not so sure. Every time I hear Harteros in Verdi I am struck by how wrong her approach to the music is. There is simply no sweep in the line, no grandezza. Netrebko may be a lazy musician sometimes (although far less than she used to be) buy she absolutely knows how to put Verdi across in a way that Harteros does not.

        • Fidelia

          I’ve seen Harteros live in Forza del Destino and Aida and she has been breathtaking. I admit to not knowing what the “right” approach is, but if you want a carefully considered interpretation, great attention to line (oh, yes), an eloquent and faithful use of dynamics, a strong dramatic presence and a je ne sais quoi that will probably bring you to tears at the end of the work, Anja’s the one for my money.

          • Porgy Amor

            I agree, Fidelia. I am more interested in the recording, rather than less, because it has Harteros in the title role. It doesn’t make me an anti-fan of Netrebko’s; sometimes I have liked her very much. I thought the Berlin Leonora, within an irritating production, was very good. But Harteros has come closer to the center of the target more often, for my own set of biases, and after listening to the release of her Salzburg Elisabetta, I would have wanted no one else on a new studio recording of the present opera. Not Gheorghiu, not Radvanovsky, not Trebs.

            • antikitschychick

              I too am interested in this recording because of Harteros and I completely agree with Kashania’s assessment that while she may not be the most Italianate interpreter she isn’t unitalianate. She’s certainly more Italianate than AN, Sondra and Glammyla me thinks, not just because of her enunciation but because of the lighter color of her voice as well. Can’t speak to Stoyanova as she hasn’t sung it yet and I really haven’t heard a lot of recordings of her nor have I seen/heard her live, although based on what I have heard she does sound like a very accomplished singer and that is certainly a great compliment Muti gave her. Shes also very experienced. Another one to keep in mind is Lianna Haroutounian. I’d also add Meade to the list of singers worthy of a high profile recording of a Verdi heroine. I was kind of bummed that she wasn’t chosen to share the Desdemonas with Sonya instead of Hibla Gerzmava.

              Popsy would certainly be up there had she gotten her technical issues sorted. I hope she’s able to make some sort of comeback and if not that she at least finds happiness in her personal life.

            • armerjacquino

              Yoncheva and Gerzmava can both act. I really think a Desdemona needs to have access to a load more dramatic ability than Meade has ever shown.

            • antikitschychick

              Armerj: that may be true and I certainly understand why they made the choices that they did. Plus, I’ve yet to see Gerzmava in a staged opera so I will withold any final judgement until I do. Think she is scheduled for an HD this season isnt she? I just like Meade’s voice much more than I do Gerzmava’s based on what I’ve heard although they’re really too different to be comparable. And yes Sonya is a compelling performer and I think her Desdemona could be one for the ages. We’ll see soon enough!

    • The way I see it, there are four top sopranos today who can lay claim a to high-profile recording of a big Verdi heroine – Netrebko, Harteros, Radvanovsky and Monastyrska.

      While Rad and Monastyrska have had more experience singing the role, Netrebrko and Harteros have the more beautiful voices and are probably the two most popular sopranos in the world working at their peak (as opposed to someone like Fleming who is very popular but winding down). Of the two, Netrebko has not yet sung it. She has the more natural Verdi instrument but I think both she and Harteros bring different strengths to the table. I will say that Harteros and Kaufmann’s musical approach is quite similar and their experience working together shows in the recording. And the more I heard her Aida, the more I liked it.

      • Bill

        What about Stoyanova -- Muti stated not so long ago
        that Stoyanova was the finest Verdi soprano
        around at this time and she has had a wide range
        of Verdi parts in her repertoire with Aida
        upcoming

        • Bill: I’ve really enjoyed the few times I’ve heard Stoyanova (which is not often) but I admit that she wasn’t on my radar when thinking of leading Verdi sopranos.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Well I would put Stoyanova ahead of Radvanovsky but both are not in the same category as Harteros and Netrebko for vocal glamour nor stage prescence. Harteros and Netrebko are also both much better actresses and the first two who are rather dull on stage and plain to look at. Harteros and Netrebko both own the stage when they appear and the other two get lost like Fleming as well.

            • LT

              Harteros is VERY plain to look at.

            • armerjacquino

              I wouldn’t use the word ‘plain’ about Harteros. There’s nothing commonplace about the way she looks. She may not be a beautiful woman but she’s a very striking one.

            • antikitschychick

              I don’t think she’s plain looking either. I’d say she’s tall, statuesque and is graceful onstage.

            • rapt

              Just to fill out the spectrum--and demonstrate how subjective such things are--I think (based only on photos and videos) she IS beautiful!

            • Camille

              Plain? How so? She is, at the very least a very striking woman. If you don’t care for her looks; well that is another matter but plain she clearly is not from what I have ever seen, and lovely much of the time and immaculately and tastefully turned out.

              Now, plain ugly is something else and there are a few of those, too. We won’t go there.

            • rapt: Frankly, I thought it obvious that she’s beautiful am surprised others don’t find her so.

            • Porgy Amor

              Yeah, I think Harteros is lovely, and I love to watch her on stage and even in a concert setting. In that filmed Verdi Requiem of Barenboim’s, when the cataclysms are swirling all around her in the Libera me and she’s just standing there, so poised and calm, she has that special presence and charisma. Leontyne Price had it too, in the same work. The wait for her to open her mouth and sing is almost as much of a pleasure as what you get when she does so, because you’re seeing this intense focus at the center of the outward serenity. In fewer words, she’s a stah.

            • Feldmarschallin

              If Harteros is plain that what are say Blythe, Goerke, Eaglen, Radvanosky and a few more?

            • LT

              I find Radvanovsky much prettier than Harteros.

      • oscar

        Surprisingly, the Met has had two excellent sopranos singing Met broadcasts of Aida fairly recently: Latonia Moore and Tamara Wilson. Maybe not glamorous or starry enough for a commercial recording, but they more than fit the bill, especially after a very long absence of even decent Aidas.

        • I agree that neither Moore nor Wilson is starry enough for a studio recording (considering how rare they are).

          I loved Moore’s Met broadcast from a few years ago. And based on Wilson’s Rosalinde a couple of years ago (in Toronto), I’d say she has the makings of a fine Verdi soprano. We’re quite fortunate on the lirico-spinto soprano side of things.

    • Feldmarschallin

      And of course you were there in Rome right and heard it? On page 19 of the Sept Gramophone Pappano says that he is happy to have found the ‘right singers’ and the ‘right moment’. ‘But I have singers who are known for their finesse, and there are very few singers I could do this kind of Aida with’. So go back to your cave.

      • manou

        Speleologist or spelunker?

  • Johnb

    Oops……it was Rome.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Looking forward to Flemming’s first bash at Aida later this month.

    • Cicciabella

      QPF, do you put a lemming in Fleming on purpose?

  • antikitschychick

    delightful and informative review; thanks kash :-). Will write more tomorrow; need ZzzzZz right now lol.

  • la vociaccia

    My issues with Jonas in Italian music have nothing to do with “squillo” or lack thereof; on the contrary, what he lacks is something Domingo excelled in -- delivering the text with vowels that had a Latinate ‘charisma.’ When Jonas sings Italian, the words never jump off the page for me -- I can hear them clearly but they don’t…shine.

    • I think that is well and fairly observed. I noticed that he was paying attention to the text but the words weren’t exactly popping out. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

      Mind you, that doesn’t prevent him from being a great Verdi tenor in my book.

    • Camille

      You are correct.

      That’s what happens when singers sing in a language that is really diverse from their native tongue and is a problem unless said singer has a gift for languages and many do not. Le piccole sfumature.

  • Camille

    Very well described regarding Mr Kaufmann’s singing of the aria and particularly am pleased to hear that morendophrase referred to in such detail--something I admittedly despaired of ever hearing done live. It truly had a remarkable effect and gives the lie to the assertion Verdi’s pppp’s are only a suggestion; hyperbolic.

    I will read more tomorrow when I have time but thanks for your fairness and impartiality, and attention to those picayune musical details, kashania chéri. Oh, since manou is off-duty, I’ll have to pick up the slack: the word is italianità.

    Cheers, dear!

    • Ah, “italianità”! I must remember to work that into my next review. Thanks as ever, Camille chere.

  • john

    And of course a conductor doing a promotional interview is likely to say “there were several other sopranos I could have chosen who would have been just as good”? ????

    I’m sure Harteros sings a wonderful Aida, just as Netrebko would have done. I think for many people the biggest draw will simply be hearing her in a studio recording since many of us cannot afford to travel to Munich etc to hear her in the theatre.

  • Fidelia

    What’s interesting about this question of italianità:
    I too usually prefer to hear singers sing in their native language because there’s a naturalness that just shines through, as you say, La Vocaccia. However, in the many reviews I’ve read in Italian on JK or AH, I’ve never seen one that remarks on a lack of italianità. (As a matter of fact, Jonas is often praised by Italian critics for his perfect mastery of the language and the spirit of the Italian works he sings.) Maybe this reproach is attributable to a certain mindset specific to non-Italians? Dare I say, to certain national stereotypes? (No, no, don’t get excited, I KNOW there are valid and necessary “national” stylistic approaches related to the origin of the music being performed. Nevertheless, I am growing increasingly wary of my personal expectations of how something should be performed; when I put them aside I am often pleased and suprised by approaches that don’t correspond to my preconceptions.)

    • la vociaccia

      I don’t necessarily believe being a native speaker is necessary for achieving what I believe Jonas lacks in Italian; a lot of it seems purely technical to me. The way he produces his voice isn’t conducive to wide, open vowels. There are many German singers, for example, who I believe sang with a better, easier Italian (Wunderlich, Grummer the Austrian Wachter).

      I don’t think he doesn’t understand the Italian, or understand the tradition of the Italian repertoire or what have you; my criticism can really be whittled down to the exact way he produces his voice.

      • la vociaccia

        There should be a comma after Grümmer…

        • Fidelia

          Point taken! :-)

  • Gualtier M

    One thing I must mention here with all this discussion of whether Harteros is a great Verdi soprano or not: her live performance of Aida in Rome (of which I heard a recording provided by our own JML) was distinctly uneven and not totally successful. Admittedly it was her first attempt and she was probably nervous but problems with controlling the top set in after the Triumphal Scene and during the Nile Scene in “O cieli azzurri…O Patria Mia” and continued to the end. Aida is one of those killer roles in that the tessitura actually gets higher has the opera progresses. Norma and Violetta Valery and to a certain extent Butterfly are all marathon parts but get lower and more central in tessitura by the last act.

    Harteros seemed to give in to vocal fatigue and was struggling to keep the course. It wasn’t a disaster or ugly (like late Andrea Gruber or several others I could name) but it wasn’t by any means the triumph that Feldmarschallin seems to be describing. Harteros hit some very patchy high notes including that killer high C in “O Patria Mia” and even in the final duet sounded tired and as if she was “managing”. Now of course the recording will be perfect including the high C’s because she had the advantage of retakes, recording it in small fragments and much less pressure.

    She has had success as the “Forza” Leonora which reportedly was a better fit than the “Trovatore” Leonora. I found this surprising since the “Trovatore” Leonora is a florid late bel canto type role and seemingly a better fit for a former prominent Fiordiligi, Contessa Almaviva and Donna Anna. The vocal line requires the same arching cantilena, floating pianos and fioritura along with gutsy chest and some declamation.

    Anyway, point is that Harteros is probably a fine Aida on a recording but until she replicates that performance in a live operatic performance, the jury is out -- as far as Aida is concerned.

    • Krunoslav

      “Ja, they should have let her sing it in German, which is better for Verdi anyway. The great postwar Aidas have been Welitsch, Zadek, Cunitz, Varady and now Harteros.”

      • Feldmarschallin

        Welitsch was Bulgarian I thought. And Varady from Siebenbürgenland. And one great Aida is missing from that list………an Austrian who sang quite a lot at the Met.

        • armerjacquino

          I don’t think Gueden ever sang Aida though.

        • Krunoslav

          Welitsch sang Aida 30 times im Wien auf Deutsch. Varady only twice in Italian, or should one say “Italian” as hers was so relatively poor for such a wonderful singer-- but she was German by marriage!

          Meawnehile pre-War at the Met we have the Austro-Czech Destinn ( 50 times), the Prussian Johanna Gadski 44 times and the proto-) Wuppertal-born Marie Rappold 37 times.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Well that Varady only sang Aida twice in Italian is not true since I heard her twice already and I know that I have a recording of her singing it in Berlin with Pavarotti.

    • rapt

      Very interesting observation about the tessitura, GM--as soon as you pointed it out, I could hear it in my mind’s ear. Thanks!

    • Rackon

      In fairness to Harteros, she has said she was feeling under the weather for that live Aida. Had it not been for the fact it was such an important occasion, she said she would likely have cancelled. I haven’t listened to the concert for some months but I thought she was clearly not at her best. I wouldn’t judge Harteros as a Verdi soprano from that Rome concert.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Especially not from that horrible phone recording. There are much better recordings of that concert one just has to find them :)

        • Lohengrin

          Thats it!
          Better is to wait till the CD is out.

          • ML

            Or for Stoyanova/JK in the house next week, relayed by BR.

            Ettinger may prove more adept in Verdi than the self-promoting Pappano.

            Anyone going?

            • manou

              Ettinger is to Pappano as Erdmann is to Callas.

            • Feldmarschallin

              I will be at 4 of the 5 Aidas starting next Friday.

            • ML

              Manou, that’s cute.

              How is Ettinger in late Verdi actually? I find him rather good in certain music. And Pappano is not right for Verdi.

            • ML

              Feld, we’ll be at the 2nd.

              Too bad, but understandable, that AH didn’t want to tackle the role on stage … And too bad about the staging: OMG, what a piece of shit!

            • armerjacquino

              The ‘self-promoting Pappano’. What does this mean? Is it because he dared to make a few TV programmes?

    • Tubsinger

      Gualtier, I think it’s been noted here many times that Caballe’s Aida on record is among first-choice performances--but her stage appearances in the role could be problematic and not consistently satisfying. I can’t imagine how Freni could have sung the role at that cavernous Salzburg barn and not struggled; I hear some strain even on record under far more hospitable conditions.

      And Kash--thanks so much for such a fine, reasoned review.

      • Gualtier M

        Rethberg and Maria Muller are two distinguished pre-WWII Aidas of German/Austro-Hungarian background.

        Tubsinger, agreed about Caballé but I think also that Zinka Milanov’s live Aidas don’t measure up to the nearly perfect Nile and Tomb scenes on her RCA recording with Jussi Bjorling. Even the ones from the 1940’s have Zinka sliding up ahead of the beat to the high C in “O Patria Mia” and it going sharp or wavering. (Zinka has some gusty rough moments in the earlier acts in the RCA studio set but is perfection from the Nile Scene on) Also in the theater Milanov’s voice would have covered Bjorling’s but they sound balanced on the 1955 Jonel Perlea recording.

        Feldie, I would think the better sonics would more clearly indicate the problems Harteros was having that particular evening (whether due to indisposition or whatever) -- despite the murk, the pitch and tone control problems were quite evident even in that distant murky recording JML provided (and for which we are as always beholden to him and extremely grateful). Jonas on the other hand, sounded totally in command of Radames and very impressive in the live performance and Semenchuk stole the show on the distaff side.

        • Gualtier M

          Oh another thing -- Rosa Ponselle has legendary 78 recordings of the Aida arias and the duets with Martinelli. However, she sang the role very infrequently at the Met. The Drake biography reveals that she sang it more often on tour where Serafin would let her transpose “O Patria Mia” down a half tone so that she could sing a high B rather than a high C. Evidently local critics in the boonies were less liable to notice the transpositions and call her out on them. And this was in the 1920’s not later on when her repertoire consisted mainly of Santuzza and Carmen. The famous recordings make on think she sang the role all the time at the old Met but Rethberg had many more performances.

          • Gualtier M

            make ONE think she sang the role all the time.

            I think the Austrian soprano that Feldie is referring to is Leonie Rysanek.

            • Feldmarschallin

              :)

  • Cicciabella

    In one of the promo videos, Pappano said something like (free paraphrase): we should not look back at the past, but dare to make a recording with the singers we have today, and then something special happens. If he didn’t think the cast was up to it, he wouldn’t have made the recording. We should be happy with it as a testimony of the artistic riches of our time. While unlikely to oust the great Aida recordings, it will indicate to future generations the kind of studio recordings that are possible now if they were still financially viable. Just like Pappano’s Butterfly doesn’t supplant the Freni and Scotto recordings, but adds a new take on the work, this Aida could claim its place in “best recordings” discussions. It is difficult now to assess its historical importance, but at the very least I think it will be a significant addition to Pappano’s recorded oeuvre.

  • Lohengrin
    • Feldmarschallin

      Brings back fond memories of that Friday night in Rome. Remember that long, long hallway which we thought would never end and the people saying ‘sempre diritto’. And then not knowing if a bus would or wouldn’t come. Those two voices blend perfectly together.

      • Lohengrin

        Are´nt they lovely?
        Felmarschallin, I will be in München on 1. and 7. Oktober and bring the magazine (about Anja)for You. As always: during the intermission at the bar near Königsloge; dressed in black and a little white.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Werde in Tracht sein bei beiden Vorstellungen.

          • Lohengrin

            Da sollte ich wohl nachziehen;-). Meine ist leider i Schrank eingelaufen………