Image Entertainment presents
Aida: Teatro di San Carlo (1999)
"For you, I'm a traitor to my country."- Rhadames (Walter Fraccaro)
Stars: Carlo Striuli, Dolora Zajick, Fiorenza Cedolins, Giacomo Prestia, Vittorio Vitelli, Walter Fraccaro
Other Stars: Orchestra and Chorus of the Theatre of San Carlo, Daniel Oren, conductor
Director: Gianfranco De Bosio
Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:39m:12s
Release Date: 2002-06-04
DVD ReviewLove triangles are an essential staple of opera, and one of the most deadly is present in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Written to commemmorate the opening of the Suez Canal, this drama of patriotism, love, treason and vengeance always provides ample opportunity for spectacle, and this Italian television production at the Teatro di San Carlo takes advantage of that opportunity with great style.
Aida (Fiorenza Cedolins) is an Ethiopian slave in ancient Egypt, kept by princess Amneris (Dolora Zajick). Unfortunately for all concerned, both of them love the same man, Rhadames (Walter Fraccaro), commander of the Egyptian army. After conquering the invading Ethiopians, Rhadames returns in triumph, and as a gesture of love grants Aida's pleas for mercy for her father, Amonasro (Vittorio Vitelli), whom Rhadames does not know is in fact king of the Ethiopians. Amonasro puts pressure on Aida to get Rhadames to reveal secrets about the Egyptian army's movement, and when he does so, Amneris springs her trap and has him arrested. Nothing works as she had hoped, however, and the tragedy plays out in a conclusion worthy of Edgar Allan Poe.
While there aren't any big marquee names here, the performers are competent enough. Zajick does a terrific job of believably carrying off a difficult character who runs the gamut of emotion. I was less happy with Cedolins' Aida, who seemed to be posing more than passionate. She also seemed to struggle with the lower notes of the range, visibly having to brace herself for them. Her voice also unfortunately cracks briefly in her duet with Rhadames in Act III. Fraccaro does a fine job, demonstrating pride, self-pity and desire both with his body and his voice. The supporting cast, notably Giacomo Prestia as the scowling high priest Ramfis, does a fine job in fleshing out the cast.
The house orchestra, conducted by Daniel Oren, in general sounds excellent, though there are a couple moments where the brass has some difficulties. There are some sloppy moments among the trombones during the famous Triumphal March, a segment so familiar that an error is all the more recognizable. The other spot is a muffed entry by the trumpets in Act IV during Rhadames' trial. Not perfect, but not terrible. They do play with great gusto and sensitivity as appropriate, making it a very worthwhile rendition.
The presentation is thoroughly traditional, with colossal sets that evoke ancient Egypt quite effectively. In particular, the Temple of Phtah in Act II is quite moody and practically chilling in its mysticism. The dank tomb that concludes the piece is also brought off well. Yet the use of the camera to bring us close in on the action helps keep the actors from being lost as might be the case if one were sitting in the Teatro di San Carlo.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The most problematic aspect of this disc is the image. First, it seems to have been shot on low-grade video because everything is suffused with a softness and blurriness that seemed quite out of focus and eventually made my eyes hurt. I question whether this was originally meant to be widescreen, since in Act I there are several occasions where the heads of vocalists (notably Rhamades) are cropped off completely! If it's not cropped, then the camera operator was extraordinarily clumsy. Color is quite vivid and black levels are surprisingly deep for a live perofrmance. Most of the production is suffused with a rich, warm glow (except for the last sequence) that is quite attractive. If only it weren't so blurry!
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 audio is very good indeed, with excellent stereo separation and some surround activity as well. At one point, Rhadames moves from right to left and his voice goes with him in an almost distractingly precise motion. There is minimal hiss or noise, even from the audience, who is extraordinarily well-behaved. The vocals come across crystal clear, as does the orchestra. Considering this DVD is cheaper than most CD versions of Aida, this would make a highly satisfactory purchase for the audio only.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 34 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: As is par for the course, there are no extras. The subtitling here is better than on many operatic discs, in that the text stays on the screen as long as the line is still being sung, instead of going away prematurely as too often happens. When elaborate part-writing comes in, though, the subtitlist simply gives up. I'd like to see a fully subtitled opera, using the Universal style of subtitles, printed near the vocalist. One could then have several subtitles going at once, assigned to the singer of each part. The chaptering is well done, with ample divisions for various arias and recitatives. In order to squeeze the whole thing onto a single disc, dual layers (changing between Acts II and III) with separate titles were used instead of RSDL.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA well-done Aida, marred by excessively soft video. The audio is fine, however, and the performance and presentation are, if not first-rate, certainly capable. Not an extra to be seen.
Mark Zimmer 2002-06-02