Verdi: Aida

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Teldec
PERFORMER: Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, Olga Borodina, Vincenzo La Scola, Thomas Hampson; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Vienna PO/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85402-2
Verdi almost called his Egyptian opera Amneris, and it is this proud, calculating but vulnerable character who often stays in the mind at the end of a performance of Aida; she is the one who travels the greatest emotional distance over the course of the opera and with the right interpreter she can steal the show from the slightly self-obsessed lovers. The Russian mezzo Olga Borodina is not in the tradition of the great Italian dramatic mezzos such as Simionato, Barbieri and Cossotto, who have more bite. But her luscious, sexy voice can be kittenish as well as smouldering – a more rounded portrait than the battle-axe Amnerises on some recordings. The conductor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, is similarly outside the mainstream tradition of 19th-century Italian opera and conducts a highly articulated, energised performance; the casting of quite lyrical voices in the roles of Aida and Radamès is consistent with his reading, which emphasises the delicate and subtle scoring in much of this piece. The Aida of Cristina Gallardo-Domâs struggles a bit in the more dramatic passages, when the voice tends to get a little shrill. However, in the more intimate moments, and above all in the final duet she floats some exquisite sounds with the youthful-sounding Radamès of Vincenzo La Scola. Thomas Hampson is on good form as Amonasro and the supporting cast, chorus and orchestra are all excellent. Ultimately it does not eclipse the Muti/Caballé/Domingo/Cossotto set which EMI have recently reissued at mid-price, but it is a thrilling recording all the same. Clive Portbury