Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Antonio Pappano - Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (2015)

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Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Antonio Pappano - Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (2015)

Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Antonio Pappano - Giuseppe Verdi: Aida (2015)
Classical | MP3 320kbps CBR | 3 CDs | Full Scans | 342 MB
Label: Warner Classics | Catalog Number: 552766 | 2nd Oct 2015

This magnificent recording of Aida, made in Rome, rises to all the musical and dramatic challenges presented by Verdi's richly-coloured Egyptian epic. Antonio Pappano, once again proving his mastery of Italian opera, moves between sumptuous grandeur and touching intimacy. The responses of the Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia are both immediate and vibrant, while the singers - Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tézier and Erwin Schrott - do justice to every facet of their roles.
Maestro Antonio Pappano became music director of these Rome-based ensembles in 2005 - and has recorded Verdi's Requiem, Rossini's Guillaume Tell and Puccini's Madama Butterfly with them - but this version of Verdi's Egyptian-set masterpiece will inevitably represent a landmark. Aida, after all, has a reputation as one of the grandest works in the repertoire, and studio recordings of large-scale operas have become something of a rarity over the past 20 years. The New York Times has predicted that "this will surely rank as one of the most prestigious recording projects of the year."

The recording was made in February 2015 in the Auditorium of Rome's Parco della Musica - a superb 2800-seat concert hall, designed by Renzo Piano. The venue was able to accommodate all the spatial effects (such as off-stage chorus and woodwind/brass banda) that Verdi built into his score, and the producer, Stephen Johns, could evoke towering temples and echoing tombs without recourse to electronic trickery.

Antonio Pappano feels that, as conductor, his role is "to become the stage director creating an imaginary production, which is built with the forces and space that you have at your disposal." He emphasises that, for all its grandeur, particularly in the spectacular Triumphal Scene that closes Act II, Aida is "an intimate piece ... but the intimacy is placed in large spaces." When it comes to creating Verdi's richly-coloured sound world, he believes that the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia has "the ideal sound - the cantabilità [singing quality], the drama."

Pappano has chosen singers who can bring both soaring power and lyrical subtlety to their roles: Anja Harteros as the captive Ethopian princess Aida, Jonas Kaufmann as the Egyptian general Radamès, Ekaterina Semenchuk as the Egyptian princess Amneris, Ludovic Tézier as Aida's father, the Ethopian king, Amonasro, Erwin Schrott as the implacable high priest Ramfis and Marco Spotti as the King of Egypt.

Shortly after the recording was completed, Pappano conducted a concert performance of Aida with the Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the same line-up of principal singers. The sold-out event duly attracted critics from all over the world.

The Sunday Times (UK) wrote that: "Pappano was incandescent, inspiring his orchestra and chorus to marvels of drama in the big scenes, yet also wondrously detailed, revealing textures in this masterly score of breathtaking transparency and delicacy. Aida in the theatre is rarely, if ever, like this." The Times (UK) judged that: "It's hard to imagine Aida being better sung today," and described Anja Harteros as "a rare singer who can bring such exquisite poise to the long, lyrical lines of the music while also riding the orchestra." Jonas Kaufmann "provided ardour, muscle and Verdian elegance in spades," while "Ekaterina Semenchuk was a rich-toned Amneris, flashing with haughty glamour ... Ludovic Tézier's warm-toned Amonasro was another impeccably musical performance and Erwin Schrott was good value as an unexpectedly virile Ramfis .... And underpinning it all, the Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia were guided by Pappano with thrilling theatricality and finesse ... Who needs elephants when the music sounds this good?"

The Italian magazine Musica praised Pappano's readiness to explore the dramatic extremes of the score - both its violence and its delicacy, while the Austrian newspaper Die Presse found this to be "an orchestrally intoxicating Aida, full of nuances and exciting from the first note to the last" and compared Ekaterina Semenchuk to two powerhouse mezzo-sopranos of the past, Fiorenza Cossotto and Elena Obraztsova.

The French website Forum Opéra declared that this Aida was "the operatic event of 2015 in Rome - and even in the whole of Italy ...

This concert did full justice to a score that is more refined than we often think it to be ... Antonio Pappano brought the drama to life, taking it forward without letting the tension drop for a moment ... the orchestra shone with great clarity and with instrumentalism of the highest quality ... the chorus is one of the best to be heard ... the cast [was] of a standard that is rarely experienced."

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Conductor: Antonio Pappano

Reviews: It's been a long time (a good fifteen years, I think) since we had a major new studio-recording of Verdi's Egyptian epic, and Warner Classics have really pulled out all the stops with this no-expense-spared project, recorded in Rome earlier this year over an entire week. In an age where most complete opera-recordings are made from live performances with 'patching' (retakes and touch-ups after the event) it's a luxury which harks back to the glory-days of the 1960s and 70s, and the detail and fine-tuning of the finished product show it was worth every penny. (Full texts and translations, too, not to mention insightful booklet-notes).

The cast really couldn't be bettered today. Jonas Kaufmann sings the role of Radamès for the first time here, and his sublime 'Celeste Aida' sets the tone for a recording that's full of fresh insights and attention to detail whilst never sounding clinical or micro-managed. He and Pappano pull off everything that Verdi requested but rarely gets, not least the treacherous diminuendo (to quadruple pianissimo!) on the final top B flat (viewers of Pappano's recent BBC series on operatic voices may recall the rather lovely moment when Pappano asks Kaufmann to demonstrate this and shakes his head in laughing disbelief when he complies!). Kaufmann's also so very alive to the contrasting sides of Radamès' character - he can switch from warrior to lover in an instant, never more so than in the 'Nile Scene' as he vacillates agonisingly between that old operatic conflict, love and duty.

Anja Harteros's very lyrical Aida may divide listeners: I love the fragility she brings to the role of the enslaved Ethiopian princess (the Nile Aria in particular is exquisite), but don't expect the steely inner fire and weighty lower register of Leontyne Price or Renata Tebaldi. She sails above the big ensembles with grace, though, and her approach complements and contrasts with her Amneris, the young Russian dramatic mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk. This Mariinsky protégée is probably the most old-school 'Verdi voice' on the bill: a real metallic powerhouse mezzo with a formidable chest-register and lacerating top notes. She's also the only one of the principal singers to have sung her role on stage already, though she's quoted in the booklet-note as saying that the recording-process with Pappano has deepened her understanding of the character no end. It shows. I don't think I've ever heard an Amneris who better captures the youthful vulnerability of this entitled princess.

When she first appears, sulking in her boudoir, the sound's so lyrical that I thought she might be too light for the role, but once she's spurred into woman-scorned mode all hell breaks loose. Her Act Four confrontation with Kaufmann sent my heart-rate through the roof!

The smaller roles also receive luxury performances. Erwin Schrott is an imposing, fanatical Ramfis: it's good to hear him not playing the seducer for once, and he blends wonderfully with Kaufmann in their invocation to the gods (their joint cry of 'Immenso Fthà!' at the end of Act One will rattle your rafters!). He's also nicely differentiated from Marco Spotti's noble but vulnerable King: on other recordings it's sometimes hard to tell these two characters apart in ensembles. (One of the many strengths of the set, thanks to Pappano and the tireless recording engineers, is the way you can pick out every single line in even the densest ensembles - particularly crucial in those huge concerted scenes where several characters are going to pieces against a backdrop of general rejoicing...).

But in the final analysis the laurel-wreath must go to Pappano's wonderful Santa Cecilia Orchestra, who capture every facet of the score's astonishing emotional and dynamic range and get right behind their conductor's vision of the opera as a conflict between the public and the private: there's real chamber-music-like intimacy in the domestic scenes (especially from the marvellous woodwind principals), whilst the front on the brass sound in the big military set-pieces (augmented by the brilliant Italian State Police Band) is real all-guns-blazing stuff. Gloria all'Italia!


Disc: 1
1. Aïda: Preludio (Antonio Pappano)
2. Aïda, Act 1: "Sì: corre voce che l'Etiope ardisca" (Ramfis, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
3. Aïda, Act 1: "Se quel guerrier io fossi!" (Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
4. Aïda, Act 1: "Celeste Aida" (Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
5. Aïda, Act 1: "Quale insolita gioia nel tuo sguardo!" (Amneris, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
6. Verdi: Aïda, Act 1: "Vieni, o diletta, appressati" (Amneris, Aida, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
7. Aïda, Act 1: "Alta cagion v'aduna" (King, Messenger, Radamès, Ramfis, Priests, Ministers, Captains, (Antonio Pappano)
8. Aïda, Act 1: "Su! del Nilo al sacro lido" (King, Ramfis, Ministers, Captains, Aida, Radamès, Amneris (Antonio Pappano)
9. Aïda, Act 1: "Ritorna vincitor!" (Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
10. Aïda, Act 1: "Possente, possente Fthà" (High Priestess, Ramfis, Priests, Priestesses) (Antonio Pappano)
11. Aïda, Act 1: "Sacred dance of the Priestesses" (Priestesses, Ramfis, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
12. Aïda, Act 1: "Mortal, diletto ai Numi" (Ramfis, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
13. Aïda, Act 1: "Nume custode e vindice" (Ramfis, Radamès, Priests, Priestesses) (Antonio Pappano)

Disc: 2
1. Aïda, Act 2: "Chi mai fra gl'inni e I plausi" (Slaves, Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
2. Aïda, Act 2: Dance of the Moorish slaves (Antonio Pappano)
3. Aïda, Act 2: "Vieni: sul, crin ti piovano" (Slaves, Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
4. Aïda, Act 2: "Fu la sorte dell'armi a' tuoi funesta" (Amneris, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
5. Aïda, Act 2: "Pietà ti prenda del mio dolor" (Aida, Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
6. Aïda, Act 2: "Su! del del Nilo a sacro lido" (Chorus, Amneris, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
7. Aïda, Act 2: "Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside" (Chorus, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
8. Aïda, Act 2: Triumphal march (Antonio Pappano)
9. Verdi: Aïda, Act 2: Ballet (Antonio Pappano)
10. Aïda, Act 2: "Vieni, o guerriero vindice" (Chorus, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
11. Aïda, Act 2: "Salvator della patria" (King, Radamès, Ramfis, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
12. Aïda, Act 2: "Che veggo! Egli? Mio padre!" (Aida, Amneris, Radamès, Ramfis, King, Priests, Chorus, A (Antonio Pappano)
13. Aïda, Act 2: "Ma tu, Re, tu signore possente" (Amonasro, Aida, Slaves, Prisoners, Ramfis, Priests, A (Antonio Pappano)
14. Aïda, Act 2: "O Re, pei sacri numi" (Radamès, King, Amneris,Priests, Chorus, Ramfis) (Antonio Pappano)
15. Aïda, Act 2: "Gloria all' Egitto, ad Iside" (King,Slaves, Prisoners, Chorus, Ramfis, Priests, Aida, (Antonio Pappano)

Disc: 3
1. Aïda, Act 3: "O tu che sei d'Osiride" (Priests, Priestesses) (Antonio Pappano)
2. Aïda, Act 3: "Vieni d'Iside al tempio" (Ramfis, Amneris, Priests, Priestesses) (Antonio Pappano)
3. Aïda, Act 3: "Qui Radamès verrà!" (Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
4. Aïda, Act 3: "O patria mia" (Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
5. Aïda, Act 3: "Ciel! mio padre!" (Aida, Amonasro) (Antonio Pappano)
6. Aïda, Act 3: "Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate" (Amonasro, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
7. Aïda, Act 3: "In armi ora si desta il popol nostro" (Amonasro, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
8. Aïda, Act 3: "Padre! a costoro schiava non sono" (Amonasro, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
9. Aïda, Act 3: "Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida" (Radamès, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
10. Aïda, Act 3: "Nel fiero anelito di nuova guerra" (Radamès, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
11. Aïda, Act 3: "Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti... Là, tra foreste vergini" (Aida, Radames) (Antonio Pappano)
12. Aïda, Act 3: "Ma, dimmi: per qual via" (Aida, Radamès, Amonasro, Amneris, Ramfis) (Antonio Pappano)
13. Aïda, Act 4 "L'abborrita rivale a me sfuggia" (Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
14. Aïda, Act 4 "Già i sacerdoti adunansi" (Amneris, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
15. Aïda, Act 4 "Ah! tu dei vivere! " (Amneris, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
16. Aïda, Act 4 "Ohimè! morir mi sento!" (Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
17. Aïda, Act 4 "Spirto del nume, sovra noi discendi!" (Ramfis, Priests, Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
18. Aïda, Act 4 "Radamès, Radamès, Radamès" (Ramfis, Priests, Amneris) (Antonio Pappano)
19. Aïda, Act 4 "A lui vivo, la tomba!" (Amneris, Ramfis, Priests) (Antonio Pappano)
20. Aïda, Act 4 "La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse" (Radamès, Aida) (Antonio Pappano)
21. Aïda, Act 4 "Presago il core della tua condanna" (Aida, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
22. Aïda, Act 4 "Vedi? di morte l'angelo" (Aida, Priests, Priestesses, Radamès) (Antonio Pappano)
23. Aïda, Act 4 "O terra, addio" (Aida, Radamès, Priests, Priestesses, Amneris,) (Antonio Pappano)
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