Verdi: Aida

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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni after a story by Mariette Bey Aida - Zinka Milanov (soprano)
Radam?â?¿s - Jussi Bjorling (tenor)
Amneris - Fedora Barbieri (mezzo-soprano)
Amonasro - Leonard Warren (baritone)
Ramfis - Boris Christoff (bass)
The King of Egypt - Plinio Clabassi (bass)
A Messenger - Mario Carlin (tenor)
Priestess - Bruna Rizzoli (soprano) Rome Opera House Orchestra and Chorus
Giuseppe Conca, Chorus master
Jonel Perlea, conductor Recorded 2 - 18 July 1955 in the Opera House, Rome
First issued as RCA Victor LM-6122 Reissue Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn     It was during the summer of 1869 that Verdi was approached about writing a hymn for the forthcoming celebrations to mark the opening of the Suez Canal in November that year. The new Opera House is Cairo was also inaugurated with a performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. He declined and advised the authorities of dissatisfaction with the quoted fee. He eventually began, however, to have a change of heart, so that by February 1870 he was suggesting the possibility of accepting, now that his interest in composition was slowly returning. The idea of a work encompassing an Egyptian historical subject certainly interested him. The Khedive of Egypt, aided by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, was determined to commission an opera specially composed for the new house. Mariette sent it to Camille du Locle, who had been one of the librettists of Don Carlos, a scenario he had devised. If it was somewhat conventional in plot, it contained enough local character and scenic possibilities. When shown to Verdi he was immediately attracted, seeking advice on Egyptian history and cultural backgrounds to music, religion and geography. Du Locle constructed a French prose libretto under Verdi's close supervision that was later converted into Italian by Antonio Ghislanzoni. The composer worked on his four-act opera during the months from July to November 1870. The premi?â?¿re was scheduled for January 1871 but was delayed because Paris, where the scenery that was being built, became engulfed in the Franco-Prussian War of that year. Incidentally, Verdi contributed part of his fee for Aida for the benefit of the French wounded in the war. The eventual first night occurred on 24 September 1871 at the Opera House in Cairo under Giovanni Bottesini, best remembered today as a double-bass virtuoso and composer. While Verdi wrote a number of spectacular passages in his opera, most notably the magnificent Triumphal Scene and Ballet Music in Act 2 after the Egyptians have defeated the Ethiopians in battle, the opera is really centred around the four principals. On the one hand we have the doomed lovers Aida and Radam?â?¿s, on the other the Egyptian Princess Amneris (who also loves Radam?â?¿s) and the Ethiopian King Amonasro (Aida's father). It is the power of father over daughter that eventually brings about the downfall and eventual death of Radam?â?¿s for treachery. Musically the opera reveals many sides of Verdi's genius and has rightly remained one of the composer's most popular works. The composer later extended the Ballet Music in Act 2 by some ninety bars for the opera's Paris premi?â?¿re (in French) in 1880. Additionally, his publisher Ricordi suggested that the composer write a full-length Overture for the Milan premi?â?¿re in February 1872 but this was discarded even before the Italian first performance. The music remained unperformed until the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had made his conducting debut with this opera in Buenos Aires in 1887, performed the Overture in New York in 1940. The American RCA Company had begun recording complete operas in Rome in 1954, having found the cost of such undertakings in the United States prohibitive by that time. Not only did they have a suitable venue but also the resources of an opera chorus and orchestra to hand. Another benefit was that the smaller r?â??les could be cast with local Italian-based singers, as can be witnessed in this recording. The main problem was the heat of a Roman summer in the days before air conditioning meant the recording sessions either took place before midday or in the early evening. The logistics were considerable in that all the recording equipment had to be shipped by sea from the United States together with the production and engineering staff. The recording of Aida was recorded in ten days over a period of two weeks. The title-r?â??le was assigned to the Croatian-born but American naturalised soprano Zinka Milanov (1906-1989) who possessed one of the most beautiful voices of her time. She studied singing in her native Zagreb with Milka Ternina and then Fernando Carpi before making her debut in 1927 at Ljubljana as Leonora in Il trovatore. A member of the Zagreb Opera between 1928 and 1935, she also appeared as a guest with the Deutsches Theater in Prague and Dresden before being selected by Toscanini as the soprano soloist in Verdi's Requiem at the 1937 Salzburg Festival. Later that year Milanov joined the Metropolitan Opera, singing 424 performances during her career in that house prior to her retirement in 1966. She sang at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires between 1940 and 1942 in addition to appearances in San Francisco and Chicago. She returned to sing in Europe when engaged by the Teatro alla Scala in 1950 and Covent Garden in 1956 as Tosca. Her other r?â??les included Norma, Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), and Maddalena (Andrea Chenier). Her complete recordings include Il trovatore (Naxos 8.110240-41), Cavalleria rusticana (Naxos 8.110261), Tosca, La Gioconda and La forza del destino. Milanov possessed a voice of translucent tonal beauty and considerable vocal power and her exquisite pianissimo singing was greatly admired in Bellini, Puccini and Verdi. The Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling (1911-1960) was born in Borlange in the district of Dalarna, and as a boy toured with the family quartet in Sweden, in addition to the United States where the three Bjorling brothers also recorded. His adult teachers were the baritone John Forsell and the Scottish tenor Joseph Hislop. He joined the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1930. An international career began in earnest with appearances in Vienna (1936), Germany (1937) and New York (1937). The war years were largely spent in Sweden but he soon returned to New York where he sang until 1959. Bjorling was highly regarded in both the French and Italian repertoire, being respected for his artistic qualities, even if his acting was conventional and somewhat stiff. He recorded extensively from 1929 until 1960. He suffered, however, from poor health in later life, caused by heart problems. His complete operatic recordings include Il trovatore (Naxos 8.110240-41), Cavalleria rusticana (Naxos 8.110261), Pagliacci (Naxos 8.110258) and Manon Lescaut (Naxos 8.111030-31). When the recording of Aida was released in Britain, the November 1956 edition of The Gramophone thought the end result was 'the best complete Aida to date'. The reviewer thought that 'at her best Milanov sings superbly', Barbieri 'was the best of current interpreters of the r?â??le', Bjorling 'the most musicianly Radam?â?¿s since Martinelli', Warren 'solid and sturdy' and Christoff 'an immensely dramatic Ramfis'. Fedora Barbieri (1919-2003) was born in Trieste, where she studied with Federico Bugatti and later Luigi Toffolo before moving to the school of the Teatro Comunale in Florence to work with Giulia Tess. Her debut was as Fidalma in Cimarosa's Il m
Disc: 1
1 Act I: Prelude
2 Act I Scene 1: Si: corre voce che l'Etiope (Ramfis
3 Act I Scene 1: Se quel guerrier io fossi!… Celest
4 Act I Scene 1: Quale insolita gioia nel tuo sguard
5 Act I Scene 1: Alta cagion v'aduna, o fidi egizii
6 Act I Scene 1: Su! Del Nilo al sacro lido (King, M
7 Act I Scene 1: Ritorna vincitor! (Aida)
8 Act I Scene 2: Possente, possente Phtha (High Prie
9 Act I Scene 2: Mortal, diletto ai numi (Ramfis, Pr
10 Act II Scene 1: Chi mai fra gl'inni e i plausi (Sl
11 Act II Scene 1: Fu la sorte dell'armi (Amneris, Ai
12 Act II Scene 1: Su! Del Nilo al sacro lido (Soldie
Disc: 2
1 Act II Scene 2: Gloria all' Egitto, ad Iside (Peop
2 Act II Scene 2: Triumphal March
3 Act II Scene 2: Vieni, o guerriero, vindice (Peopl
4 Act II Scene 2: Salvator della patria, io ti salut
5 Act II Scene 2: Quest'assisa ch'io vesto vi dica (
6 Act II Scene 2: O re, pei sacri numi (Radames, Kin
7 Act II Scene 2: Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside (King,
8 Act III: O tu che sei d'Osiride (Priests, Priestes
9 Act III: Qui Radames verra!… O patria mia (Aida)
10 Act III: Ciel! Mio padre! (Aida, Amonasro)
11 Act III: Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida (Radames,
12 Act III: Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti (Radames, Aid
13 Act III: Aida!… Tu non m'ami. Va! (Radames, Aida,
14 Act III: Tu! Amonasro! (Radames, Aida, Amonasro, A
15 Act IV Scene 1: L'aborrita rivale a me sfuggia (Am
16 Act IV Scene 1: Gia i sacerdoti adunansi (Amneris,
17 Act IV Scene 1: Ohime! Morir mi sento
18 Act IV Scene 1: Radames! Radames! Radames! (Amneri
Disc: 3
Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball) (excerpts)
1 Act IV Scene 2: La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse
2 Act IV Scene 2: Presago il core della tua condanna
3 Act IV Scene 2: O terra, addio; addio, valle di pi
4 Act I: Prelude
5 Act I: Alla vita che t'arride (Renato)
6 Act II: Re dell'abisso, affrettati (Ulrica, Riccar
7 Act II: Ecco l'orrido campo (Amelia)
8 Act II: Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa (Amelia)
9 Act II: Teco io sto (Riccardo, Amelia)
10 Act II: M'ami, m'ami (Riccardo, Amelia)
11 Act II: Ahime! S'appressa alcun (Amelia, Riccardo,
12 Act III: Morro, ma prima in grazia (Amelia)
13 Act III: Alzati! La tuo figlio… Eri tu (Renato)
14 Act III: Forse la soglia attinse… Ma se m'e forza
15 Act III: Saper vorreste (Oscar)
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