Verdi: Aida

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Aida
PERFORMER: Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Plácido Domingo, Brigitte Fassbaender, Siegmund Nimsgern, Robert Lloyd; Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: C 583 022 I ADD
Muti brings more fire, more tenderness and more italianità to this score than any other maestro on disc save Toscanini. Tempi are lively, even in the ethereal final scene, which reflects the shock of Radames’s condemnation rather than the afterlife evoked by the entombed lovers. The phrasing has lift and suppleness, while the wilder aspects of the score (shrieking high winds, bass-drum thumps) are emphasised rather than tidied away. This live performance, from a Munich first night in March 1979, both amplifies and complements the studio recording Muti set down in London six years earlier. The sound perspective here, naturally, cannot match that EMI set – and there is a good deal of stage noise in the temple and triumph scenes – but it is lively and present enough.

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Tomowa-Sintow, a stylish but sometimes restrained interpreter, is fired up by her tenor and conductor to an active Aida of passion and strength: not a victim. Fassbaender is no classic Italian mezzo but she spits and snarls with a will; her journey through the character is grippingly clear. Domingo, in freshest voice, gives unstintingly, and unindulgently, to the music drama at hand; Nimsgern is a dangerous, neurotic but unhectoring Amonasro; Lloyd colours Ramfis’s corrupted authority with care.

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At least five other recordings have unmissable individual contributions – including Björling and Christoff (RCA), Price and Vickers (Decca), and Callas and Gobbi (EMI). But the across-the-board strength of this performance makes it special in the present catalogue. Mike Ashman