Verdi-Aida (Metropolitan Opera) (1989) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Booklet
Discography-DVD Releases
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 156:54 (Case: 158)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Brian Large
Studio
Distributor
Metropolitan Opera
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Dimitri Kavrakos
Dolora Zajick
Aprile Millo
Placido Domingo
Paata Burchuladze
Sherrill Milnes
Mark W. Baker
Margaret Jane Wray
Case Flexbox
RPI $36.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Italian
English
German
French
Chinese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Aida fits the popular conception of what a grand opera should be: it is a spectacle of music and drama containing the popular operatic themes of love, betrayal, vengeance, honour, and jealousy set against an exotic location that demands larger-than-life scenes. The music is by Giuseppe Verdi and the libretto is by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a story by Auguste Mariette. The opera is set in Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs and the world premiere of the opera was held on 24 December 1871 at Cairo, Egypt.

    This is a Metropolitan Opera production featuring the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra conducted by James Levine. The performance was recorded on 7 October 1989 and is a lavish production by Sonja Frisell. It features elaborate costumes from Dada Saligeri, majestic stage settings by Gianni Quaranta and Ben-Hur like crowd scenes with priests, priestesses, dancers, slaves, guards and soldiers, Egyptian populace and Ethiopian prisoners-of-war.

    The story features Aida (Aprille Millo), daughter of Amonasro (Sherrill Milnes), King of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is waging war on Egypt, and Radamès (Plácido Domingo) is a young and dashing Egyptian captain of the guards. Aida has been captured (presumably from a previous conflict between the two countries) and currently serves Amneris (Dolora Zajick), daughter of the Pharaoh, as a slave girl. Her true identity as an Ethiopian princess is unknown to the Egyptians. She and Radamès are secretly in love, but Amneris also desires Radamès.

    In Act I, Ramfis (Paata Burchuladeze), the High Priest, and Radamès talks about the upcoming war with Ethiopia and Radamès hopes he will be chosen to lead the battle. Amneris enters to break his reverie, followed by Aida, and watching the interactions between Radamès and Aida Amneris begins to suspect that the humble slave-girl is her rival for the love of Radamès. Meanwhile, back at the royal court, a messenger (Mark W. Baker) confirms that Ethiopia has begun to invade Egypt and the Pharaoh (Dimitri Kavrakos) declares war. To the surprise of no one except Radamès, he is chosen as the commander-in-chief. Amneris presents him with the standard and he proceeds to the temple of Vulcan to take the sacred arms and the statuette of the god Fthà.

    In Act II, Amneris lounges about with her slave girls. Tormented by jealousy, she tests whether Aida is in love with Radamès by falsely informing Aida that Radamès has been killed in battle. Aida's emotional distress confirms Amneris' suspicions. Meanwhile, news has arrived of Radamès' victory over the Ethiopians and everyone prepares for the victory march through the city of Thebes. Amongst the prisoners captured is none other than Amonasro, but his identity as the King of Ethiopia is unknown to his captors. The Pharaoh praises Radamès as the saviour of Egypt and says he will grant any wish that Radamès might care to make. Radamès takes pity upon the prisoners-of-war and asks for their pardon. Reluctantly, the Pharaoh agrees, on condition that Aida and her father are retained as hostages, and in addition gives Radamès his daughter's hand in marriage and hopes that in the future both Radamès and Amneris will jointly reign over Egypt. Needless to say, Amneris is delighted but Radamès and Aida are shocked.

    In Act III, Amneris prays in the Temple of Isis on the eve of the wedding. Radamès and Aida have secretly arranged to meet. Amonasro learns of their clandestine love affair, and forces Aida to try and get Radamès to reveal the secret passage that Egyptian troops use to invade Ethiopia (so that Amonasro can exact his vengeance and defeat the Egyptians). Aida reluctantly agrees, and suggests to Radamès that they flee Egypt and elope to Ethiopia. Radamès unwittingly reveals the secret route to Amonasro's delight. However, Radamès' accidental betrayal is overheard by Amneris who accuses Radamès of being a traitor. In the confusion, Aida and Amonasro flees and Radamès surrenders to Ramfis in shock.

    In Act IV, Radamès is awaiting trial. Amneris finds that she still is in love with Radamès despite everything, and in vain tries to persuade Radamès to allow her to intercede on his behalf. He believes that all is lost and simply wants to die. Predictably, Radamès is convicted of treachery and sentenced to death by entombment. As the last stone is sealed and he is destined to die, he realises that Aida is still alive and has secretly hidden herself within the vault to die by his side. As the two lovers are finally united in death, the opera ends.

    This is an excellent production featuring some great singing and acting accompanied by spectacular crowd scenes and great sets which slide open as well as up or down during the scene changes. In particular, Dolora Jajick and Aprile Millo are great and the duets between them are definitely worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a full frame (1.33:1) transfer based on a video source that must have been composite NTSC.

    The transfer reflects the age of the video source, with sharpness levels below average, fairly poor black levels and colours that seem to tend towards the yellow or sepia.

    Fortunately, despite the length of the feature, I did not notice any objectionable instances of video or MPEG artefacts.

    The disc comes with Italian, English, German, French and Chinese subtitle tracks. I turned on the English subtitle track. The subtitling presents an overview of the libretto rather than a line-by-line translation, so it can be quite disconcerting to see the characters sing for quite a few minutes with no accompanying subtitles - I feel like I'm missing major portions of the storyline but in reality the characters are probably repeating lines already sung.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 85:04, between Acts II and III. As the screen is blank and there is no background audio, the change is not noticeable at all unless you go hunting for it which I did.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on the disc, which is Italian Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536 Kb/s).

    The quality of the audio track is relatively high, and sounds quite dynamic and punchy. Voices are clear throughout, and I did not find it difficult to pick out the Italian words sung.

    I wouldn't quite say that the audio track is CD quality, though. It sounds somewhat "fuzzy" compared to a CD recording and I suspect the PCM track has been derived from an analogue video master, although the packaging states that the audio track is "DDD Digital Stereo."

    Needless to say, as this is a stereo track, there is no surround or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras present on this disc (unless you consider some promotional stills of other titles on the Deutsche Grammophon DVD classical catalogue as an extra). Even the menu does not appear unless you specifically press the MENU button on the DVD player - the main feature starts automatically upon disc insertion and the player actually stops at the end instead of going into the menu.

Menu

    Static and full frame. You can choose between English and Chinese as the menu language.

Discography - DVD Releases

    This lists some other DVD titles available from Deutsche Grammophon

Booklet

    This is a 28 page booklet listing cast and crew, chapter titles and timing, opera synopsis (in English, German and French), and various black and white photos from the production.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is a Region 0 NTSC disc and is presumably the same around the world.

Summary

    This is a lavish and grand Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi's Aida. I found the performances more than acceptable and the sets and crowd scenes quite impressive. It is presented on a bare-bones DVD with acceptable audio and video transfers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Sunday, September 09, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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