REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » VERDI: Aida (Callas, Tucker, Serafin) (1955)
Although Aida was one of the rôles which Maria Callas sang most, especially in the early years of her career, it is generally agreed that she was better suited to singing Norma, Violetta and Lucia. Nevertheless, when this 1955 recording was first released, Harold Rosenthal for Opera wrote: “for dramatic intensity and moments of heart-rending pathos [it] can have few equals”, while Dyneley Hussey enthused in the Musical Times that it was: “a great performance, splendidly recorded. Callas’ dramatic power and her ability to shade the beautiful vocal line here find the best imaginable medium”. In, for example, the opening phrases of the Act III love duet with Radamès, ‘Là, tra foreste vergini’, her voice has a limpidity which enables her to accomplish miracles of pianissimo shadings, singing dolcissimo as the score directs – one of innumerable occasions in which Callas renders the subtlest markings in the score so effectively.
By David Denton
From the sublimated slave in the opening act to the lover who
cannot hide her passion for the heroic Egyptian, Radames, Maria Callas vocally
lives through the torments of the captive Aida. Those arias sung by every great
soprano are here so perfectly shaped that they blend into the opera rather than
hogging the limelight and standing apart as we often hear. In that moment when
she tells Radames of the joys they will have if they escape together her voice
is exquisite. It has been said that it was not a role that suited her voice,
and this recording was the last time she sang the part. But just listen to the
last act, taken with a resigned beauty that seduces the ear and you are in a
very special musical world. It was probably her presence that took the American
tenor, Richard Tucker, to his finest recording, the voice ringing true and open
in the upper reaches, and touchingly tender in the tomb scene. Fedora Barbieri
could have stolen the performance as she was the supreme Amneris of her day,
but she was happy to play the subordinate role to Callas, while so gorgeous
of voice in the first scene of the fourth act. Tito Gobbi projects forcefully
as the captured father of Aida whose plot to escape and to trick Radames into
telling the location of his soldiers brings their combined downfall. Tullio
Serafin beguiles the ear in the ballet scene and never lets the triumphant march
become too overpowering, but always happy to give the singers plenty of rhythmic
leeway. By today's standards the engineers fought shy of some orchestral climatic
moments, but did justice to the voices. The Naxos transfer is immaculate apart
from one annoying point that removes the gap between the two scenes of the final
act.� It will be an additional Aida for your collection to the improved sound
that came in later recordings, but it is a must for all Callas and Gobbi fans.
Great Opera Recordings
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Opera in Four Acts
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni after a story by Mariette Bey
Aida - Maria Callas (soprano)
Radamès - Richard Tucker (tenor)
Amneris - Fedora Barbieri (mezzo-soprano)
Amonasro - Tito Gobbi (baritone)
The King of Egypt - Nicola Zaccaria (bass)
Ramfis - Giuseppe Modesti (bass)
Messenger - Franco Ricciardi (tenor)
A Priestess - Elvira Galassi (soprano)
Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan (Norberto Mola, chorus master)
This recording, the ninth in the series made with Callas at La Scala, Milan, by EMI [Angel/Columbia], took place in August 1955 and was first published four months later. Today she has been dead more than a quarter of a century and the great years of her career are twice as long ago. Inevitably the number of those who actually went to her performances is getting less and less, so now her recordings are becoming increasingly more significant in an assessment of her worth. Some rôles she only recorded and never undertook on stage, such as Nedda in Pagliacci, Mimì, Manon Lescaut and Carmen; others she recorded and did appear as, but at most only in a couple of seasons, such as Fiorilla in Rossini's Il Turco in Italia, Rosina, Gilda, Madama Butterfly, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera and Leonora in La forza del destino; only a few did she record and sing live many times, such as Norma, Violetta, Lucia and Aida.
Although Callas appeared as Aida often in her early years, the rôle never really suited her, as did Norma, Violetta and Lucia. Live recordings, though not always sonically impeccable or complete, from Mexico City (1950 and 1951), Rome (1950) and London (1953), have something to tell us. In 1950, though hardly a mature interpretation, it is easily and affectingly sung. Yet only a year later she sings too strenuously; her attack in dramatic moments is overly vehement, her tone often curdles and she sounds obsessively competitive. This is not surprising. During that period she undertook for the first time several typical Callas rôles, which require a mastery of the florid style, such as Leonora in Il trovatore, Fiorilla, Violetta and Elena in I Vespri Siciliani; in these she takes the head voice up to E flat or even E natural, above C. The vocal cords are not dissimilar to an elastic band – try stretching them and flaws soon start to become obvious.
Callas sang Aida at her début at La Scala, Milan, in 1950 when she deputised for an indisposed Renata Tebaldi, but the Milanese were not about to capitulate - Tebaldi was then at her vocal zenith. Stage director Franco Zeffirelli, who was in the audience recalls, 'all they heard from Callas was the unevenness, the changes of register'. An opinion confirmed in the Corriere Lombardo by Teodoro Celli, later one of her most enthusiastic supporters: 'She seems to improvise differently from note to note her method and technique. She also forces her high notes.' Determined as she was to breach the wall into La Scala, Aida proved too blunt a weapon for the assault. It took another three years before the message had got through even to her. During that time the number of Aidas she sang dropped precipitately, and after 1953 she would only undertake it again in this recording.
One of her last Aidas took place in June 1953 when she appeared at Covent Garden in London. A comparatively recently discovered recording of a broadcast confirms that by then, like her Gioconda and Turandot, it was a thing of the past; the warts it revealed were all too obvious. Desmond Shawe-Taylor in The New Statesman writes: 'Although as a rule her sense of line is superb… She is at her worst gulping through "Ritorna vincitor", very unsteady at the climax in "O patria mia", and hardly attaining beauty before "Là, tra foreste vergine", which is really too late.' Andrew Porter in Opera notes: 'she has a tendency on sustained high B flats or Cs to develop a rapid trill, through the full semitone below the note… [Y]et how beautifully she caressed the phrases [in the final duet] starting "Vedi? di morte l'angelo", touching gently the notes marked staccato, ravishing the ear with the downward portamento from the high B flat.'
Although this recording was made two years after she sang it in London, it still displays her characteristic finish; for all her vocal flaws she was never careless or unmusical. For example on the opening phrases of the Act III love duet with Radames, 'Là, tra foresti vergine', her voice has a limpidity which enables her to accomplish miracles of pianissimo shadings, singing dolcissimo as the score directs, and with a great deal of refined tempo rubato. Later in the same act in duet with Amonasro, 'Ciel, mio padre', when he reminds her of home, how tellingly does she deliver the phrase 'ah ben rammento' ('Ah! too well remembered'). There are innumerable occasions in which she renders the subtlest and, what may seem, least significant markings in the score so effectively. If we listen attentively, we note it is her perfect legato which enables her to suggest by musical means even the exclamation marks and commas in the libretto.
Possessing a big voice, although she used it somewhat coarsely, the Triestine Fedora Barbieri (1918-2003) was one of a number of front-ranking Italian mezzo-sopranos active in the 1950s and 1960s, including Ebe Stignani (1903-1974), Giulietta Simionato (b.1910), Elena Nicolai (1912-1985) and Fiorenza Cossotto (b.1935). In her home town she studied with Federico Bugamelli and Luigi Toffolo, and in Milan with Giulia Tess. In 1940 she made her début at the Comunale, Florence as Fidalma in Il matrimonio segreto, then in 1943 married the Director of the Florence May Festival. Although the war interrupted her career nevertheless in those years she appeared in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, The Netherlands and Austria. No sooner was peace declared than her international progress was rapid: in 1946 from La Scala, Milan, the following year she travelled to the Colón, Buenos Aires; in 1950 to Covent Garden, London and the Metropolitan, New York, and also to San Francisco and Chicago. Her repertory in her palmy days included rôles such as Dalila, Azucena, Amneris and Eboli, which she sang under de Sabata and Giulini. She created Dariola in the première of Alfano's Don Giovanni di Manara at the May Festival in 1941 and in 1942 was Telemaco in Dallapiccola's revision of Monteverdi's Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria. In Siena that year she sang Giustina in Pergolesi's Flaminio, and in 1943 at Cremona, Orfeo in Vito Frazzi's edition of Monteverdi's opera. She undertook a number of rôles with Callas, including Brangania in Tristano, Adalgisa, Amneris, Neris in Medea and with her recorded Amneris, Laura in La Gioconda, Azucena and Ulrica.
One of America's favourite tenors Richard Tucker (1913-1975), born Reuben Ticker, was only six when he began singing in a New York synagogue choir. After studying with a reputable tenor Paul Althouse, then Martino, Borghetti and Wilhousky, his first appearance in concert in New York took place in 1943. At first he joined a touring troupe, the Salmaggi Opera Company, making his début as Alfredo. His Metropolitan début followed in 1945 as Enzo in La Gioconda. In the course of more than a quarter of a century based there he sang 600-odd performances of more than thirty rôles, including among many Radames, Alvaro, Manrico, Cavaradossi and Canio. Elsewhere in the United States he appeared with companies in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He made occasional visits to Western Europe. In 1947 he sang Enzo with Callas's Gioconda at the Verona Arena. Subsequently he made occasional appearances at La Scala, Milan, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper and Comunale, Florence, and sang concerts in Italy, Israel and South America. Towards the end of his career, in 1973, he added Eléazar in Halévy's La Juive to his repertory. His most celebrated recording is his first, as Radames in a radio performance of Aida (1949), but less on his account than Toscanini's, who conducts. He was also to have sung Manrico in the EMI/Angel Trovatore opposite Callas's Leonora but declined because of Karajan's Nazi associations.
The career of Tito Gobbi (1913-1984), born at Bassano di Grappa in the Veneto, lasted more than forty years. His was a first-class Italian baritone with a characteristic timbre in the Titta Ruffo style. He made his début in 1935 at Gubbio singing a bass rôle, Rodolfo in La sonnambula, but this was a one off, and by the next year at La Scala, he had become a baritone. Within a few years his repertory embraced Germont in La traviata, Silvio in Pagliacci, Lescaut, Marcello in La Bohème, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Ford in Falstaff, De Siriex in Fedora, Baldassare in Cilea's L'Arlesiana and Michonnet in Adriana Lecouvreur, and he also sang Melot in Wagner's Tristano and Gunther in Il crepuscolo degli dei, Jochanaan in Strauss's Salome and Wozzeck, as well as a sizeable repertory of then modern operas. His international career began after World War II at leading theatres throughout the opera world, undertaking many of what were then famous impersonations, including Rigoletto, Posa, Iago, Renato, Macbeth, Nabucco, Simon Boccanegra, Rance in La fanciulla del west, Scarpia, Falstaff and Michele in Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi, both of which he sang on more than one occasion the same evening. In older music, as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia or Don Giovanni, he appeared in Salzburg under Furtwängler in 1950. Although his stage presence was imposing, his recordings reveal his singing was not stylish. Over the years inevitably his voice became less responsive and in the upper range not infrequently he sang flat. As more than twenty films he made show, he was a good-looking man with considerable histrionic skill. His recording career lasted from 1942 and his first 78s for HMV, to LP sets for EMI, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Scarpia, Amonasro, Rigoletto, Renato and Figaro, with Callas, and Falstaff under Karajan, to 1978, when for Decca/London, he sang Chim-Fen in Leoni's L'oracolo.
A typical house singer, the bass Giuseppe Modesti (b.1915) made his début at La Scala in 1940, but the next year was conscripted into the army and not able to resume his career until 1945. Thereafter for the next quarter of a century he remained based there and sang a wide ranging repertory. He sang elsewhere in Italy and on visits to the Netherlands, Spain, France and the United States, where he appeared with the Chicago Opera. In 1954 he travelled to Rio de Janeiro and four years later to Buenos Aires. In 1957 he recorded Creon in Medea with Callas and in 1961 sang it with her at Epidauros.
Tullio Serafin (1878-1968), born at Rottanova di Cavarzere, near Venice, was one of the great conductors of Italian opera. After studying at the Milan Conservatory, at first he was a violinist in the orchestra at La Scala, Milan, then in 1900 at Ferrara began a career as conductor. Engagements followed in Turin and Rome. Through more than half a century he appeared at Covent Garden, London (1907, 1931, 1959-60), La Scala, Milan (1910-1914, 1917, 1918, 1940, 1946-7), Colón, Buenos Aires (1914, 1919, 1920, 1928, 1937, 1938, 1949, 1951), San Carlo, Naples (1922-3, 1940-1, 1949-58), Metropolitan, New York (1924-34), the Rome Opera (1934-43, 1962), Lyric Opera, Chicago (1955, 1957-58), and numerous other opera houses in Italy and abroad. His repertory was vast. He conducted conventional and unconventional operas as well as introducing a variety of new works, and worked with numerous famous singers, including Battistini, Chaliapin, Ponselle, Gigli, Callas and Sutherland. His recording career was exhaustive and embraced the HMV (1939) Verdi Requiem as well as both Angel/Columbia Normas (1954 and 1960) with Callas.
is the author of Maria Meneghini Callas
[CD 1 / Track 1] The Prelude presents material characteristic of Aida, contrasted with the opposing chant of the priests.
Scene 1. The scene is set in a hall in the palace of the King at Memphis. On the left and right there is a colonnade with statues and flowering shrubs. At the back is a great gate, through which are seen temples, the palaces of Memphis and the pyramids.
[1/2] Radamès, Captain of the Guards, and the Chief Priest Ramfis are in conversation. Ramfis tells of the rumour that the Ethiopians are again on the warpath, threatening Thebes and the Nile Valley. Radamès asks Ramfis if he has consulted Isis and Ramfis tells him that the goddess has decided the name of the supreme Egyptian commander. He looks fixedly at Radamès and adds that the man chosen is brave and young: now he must tell the King of the decision of Isis.
[1/3] Left alone, Radamès wonders if he is the chosen man. This, after all, is his ambition, to lead soldiers to victory to the acclaim of all Memphis. Then he might return, garlanded with laurels, to his beloved Aida. He sings in praise of his heavenly Aida, the queen of his thoughts. Victorious, he will set her free to breathe again the air of her own land.
[1/4] He is joined by the Egyptian princess, Amneris, who notices the unusual joy that now appears in his regard. She feels jealousy of the woman who has been able to bring him such happiness. Radamès tells her that his heart has been filled with a dream of fame: the goddess has chosen the leader of the Egyptian army, and he might be the one. Amneris seeks to know whether he has not had another more tender dream. Radamès wonders if she has guessed his secret, while she expresses her own strong suspicion. He catches sight of Aida. Amneris sees his look, but then turns to her slave, greeting her not as a slave but as a sister. Aida fears the approaching war, anxious for her unhappy country, but Amneris asks if this is really the reason for her anxiety. Aside, she bids her slave tremble, and Radamès notices her anger, fearing her suspicious jealousy, while Aida expresses her own misgivings.
[1/5] The King enters, preceded by his guards and followed by Ramfis, ministers, priests and captains. He addresses his nobles. A messenger steps forward and tells how the sacred soil of Egypt has been invaded by barbarous Ethiopians, destroying fields and crops, soon ready to attack Thebes itself. The Ethiopian army is led by a fierce warrior, Amonasro, their king, Aida's father, as she exclaims in an aside. Now, the King declares, is the time for war and Isis has declared the name of the Egyptian leader, Radamès. He is delighted at this answer to his prayers, while Aida is troubled. The ministers and captains shout the name of Radamès in acclamation. The King bids him to the temple of Vulcan, there to receive his weapons.
[1/6] Egyptian heroes, the King goes on, will arise to wreak death on the foreign aggressors. Ramfis proclaims glory to the gods, who rule everything and hold the fate of the warrior in their hands. Aida, in her mind, is divided whether to pray for her lover or for her own country, while Radamès has no doubts about the glory that awaits him. Amneris gives him the glorious banner, to guide and protect him on the path of glory. The assembled ministers and captains shout their defiance of the enemy, for Radamès will return as victor.
[1/7] Aida is left alone, haunted by these last words. She cannot wish Radamès victorious over her own father, who fights to set her free and restore her to her rightful place: Radamès would be victor over her brothers, stained with their blood, her father brought in chains behind the conqueror's chariot: she begs the gods not to hear her mad words but to let the enemies of her people perish, but then what of her love? How can she wish the death of Radamès? She dare not utter the names of father and lover and trembles in confusion: only death can end her dilemma.
Scene 2. The interior of the temple of Vulcan at Memphis is lit by a mysterious light from above. There are long rows of columns and statues of various gods. In the middle, above a platform covered with carpet, is an altar, surmounted by sacred emblems. The smoke of incense rises from golden tripods. Priests and priestesses stand with Ramfis at the foot of the altar.
[1/8] A priestess within the temple prays to the powerful god Phthà, her voice soon joined by those of her priestesses, while Ramfis and his priests, before the altar, invoke the god, father and son, source of light, life of the universe. Radamès enters, unarmed. While he approaches the altar, the priestesses carry out a sacred dance. A silver veil is placed over his head.
[1/9] Ramfis addresses Radamès, entrusting him with the destiny of Egypt. He gives him the sacred sword, tempered by the god, to be a terror to their enemies. Ramfis turns again to the altar, seeking the protection of the gods over the soil of Egypt, a prayer echoed by Radamès. While he is invested in his sacred armour, the priests and priestesses chant their prayer and perform their mystic dance.
Scene 1. The scene is a room in the quarters of Amneris in the palace.
[1/10] Amneris is surrounded by slaves, preparing her for the triumphal feast. The slaves sing of a bold warrior, victorious and to be rewarded with love, while Amneris wishes for her lover, to intoxicate her and make her happy. The slaves continue their song of victory and love and there is a dance of little Moorish slaves to entertain the princess. While the slave-girls sing, Amneris expresses her secret thoughts, but is silent when she sees Aida approach, carrying the victor's garland. Amneris still harbours jealous suspicions in her heart.
[1/11] Feigning kindness, Amneris turns to Aida, promising to be her friend and telling her to be happy, but Aida cannot be happy, far from her own country, with the fate of her father and brothers unknown. Time will heal her sorrows, and a powerful god, love, Amneris assures her. This is more disturbing to Aida, divided in her loyalties between joy and torment, while Amneris looks at her closely in suspicion. She asks her to reveal her secret thoughts and tell her of her love: does she love some hero in the battle? By some quirk of fate the leader of the Egyptians has fallen in battle. Aida, believing what she has been told, is distraught, promising to mourn Radamès for ever, only for Amneris to reveal that the news was false: now, however, she is certain that Aida is her rival. Aida openly admits her love for Radamès, but Amneris threatens her, since this love can only bring death to her: she has power over Aida and has in her heart feelings of hatred and revenge.
[1/12] Amneris commands Aida to be with her at the triumphal celebration, while the voices of the people are heard celebrating victory. For Aida nothing remains, her life is a desert and she can only die. Amneris bids her follow, since she will teach her to struggle with her. The people demand war and death to foreigners. Left alone, Aida calls on the gods to pity her suffering.
Scene 2. In the foreground are palm-trees, to the right the temple of Ammon and to the left a throne with a purple canopy above it. In the background is a triumphal gateway.
[1/13] The people crowd round as the King enters, followed by ministers, priests, captains, fan-bearers, standard-bearers, then Amneris with Aida and her slave-girls. The King takes his seat on the throne and Amneris takes up her position on the left of the King. The people sing glory to Egypt and to Isis and their King. The women promise a laurel wreath for the brow of the victor and Ramfis, with his priests, offers thanks to the gods.
[1/14] The Egyptian troops march in, preceded by fanfares, passing before the King. There follow war chariots, standards, sacred vessels and statues of the gods. Dancing girls follow, bearing the spoils of victory.
[1/15] The people sing the praises of the conquerors. Radamès enters under a canopy held by twelve officers.
[2/1] The King descends from the throne to embrace Radamès, who bows to Amneris, as she offers him the crown of victory. The King promises him whatever he wants, but he asks first for the prisoners to be brought in. These now enter, escorted by guards, with Amonasro at the end, dressed as an officer. Aida recognises her father and embraces him, but he whispers to her not to betray him. The King bids him come forward.
[2/2] Amonasro tells the King that he is Aida's father and has fought for his king and country, but his king was killed in battle: if it is a crime to love their country, then they all must die. He asks the King for mercy, for today they are defeated, but tomorrow it may be the Egyptians who suffer. Aida joins the prayer for mercy, while the prisoners echo Amonasro's words. Ramfis and the priests seek the death of the prisoners, while Amneris watches Aida and Radamès, who finds Aida more beautiful in her distress. The King and the people are inclined to mercy, but the priests remain adamant.
[2/3] Radamès now asks the King to grant his request, which the King promises. He asks for life and freedom for the prisoners, a request that surprises Amneris and is opposed by the priests. Ramfis warns the King not to listen, since these prisoners have vengeance in their hearts. Radamès claims that now the warrior king, Amonasro, is dead, the defeated have no hope. Ramfis suggests that at least Aida's father, in fact Amonasro, should be kept as a hostage, and the King agrees to this. As a reward the King grants Radamès the hand of his daughter Amneris in marriage, to the latter's triumphant delight.
[2/4] King and people join in proclaiming glory to Egypt, while the slaves and prisoners praise the clemency of the King. Aida wonders what is now left for her, only the tears of disappointed love, and Radamès, appalled by this turn of fate, declares that the land of Egypt is no recompense for the love of Aida. Amneris, meanwhile, is delighted at the apparent fulfilment of her dreams and Ramfis prays that the fates be propitious over Egypt. Amonasro takes the chance to tell Aida to take courage, since revenge is at hand.
Introduction. By the banks of the Nile granite rocks are seen, from which palm-trees grow. Above the rocks is seen the temple of Isis, half hidden by foliage. It is a starry night and the moon shines brightly.
[2/5] The voices of priests and priestesses are heard from the temple, singing to Isis, immortal mother and wife of Osiris. A boat comes to the shore and Amneris disembarks, with Ramfis, some of the court women, veiled, and guards. Ramfis addresses Amneris, bidding her to the temple on the eve of her marriage, to seek divine favour. She says that she will pray that Radamès give her his whole heart, as she gives hers to him. They enter the temple, as the priests and priestesses continue their hymn.
[2/6] Aida enters cautiously, apparently summoned by Radamès and wondering what he will say to her, since this must be their last farewell. She remembers the blue skies, the sweet breezes, green hills and flowing rivers of her own country, which she will never see again.
[2/7] To Aida's surprise, Amonasro approaches and tells her he knows of her troubles, with the daughter of Pharaoh, ruler of their hated enemies, her rival in love. She laments that she is in their power, but Amonasro assures her that she can again have country, throne and love: their people are ready to attack and Aida herself can discover from Radamès the route of the Egyptian armies. She is horrified at the suggestion that she should betray Radamès. Amonasro calls on the cohorts of Egypt then to destroy his people and country. Aida begs him to pity her, but he continues to tell her of the horrors of war that her country will suffer and from which she can save her people: otherwise she will have the curse of her mother and be disowned by her father, to remain an Egyptian slave. Aida begs again for pity, but he tells her that she must have the courage to help her country. He withdraws and hides among the palm-trees.
[2/8] Radamès now joins Aida. She asks him what he wants, since he is to marry Amneris. He assures her that he loves her alone: she must not doubt his love. She asks how he can defy the King and brave the anger of the priests, but Radamès tells her that danger again threatens, for the Ethiopians have again invaded Egypt: he will earn the gratitude of the King and the reward he wants. Aida warns him to beware the vengeful fury of Amneris, which will fall on her, her father and everyone. Radamès promises to defend her, but Aida tells him he cannot: one way is open to him, flight.
[2/9] Aida tells Radamès that they must escape together to a new country, where they can love each other.
[2/10] He exclaims on the idea of seeking refuge in a foreign land, abandoning his own country, the altars of his gods, the land where he won glory. She accuses him of not loving her, if he will not join her in flight: he must go to the altar with Amneris. Radamès gives way: let them fly together from these walls to the desert, where stars will shine upon their love. Aida adds her nostalgic memories of her native land, where they can be happy together. Together they dream of escape. As they are about to hurry away, Aida pauses. She asks him the route to be taken by the Egyptian armies, apparently so that they may avoid them in their flight. He tells her that the approach chosen will remain unguarded that night and she elicits from him the information that the army will attack through the gorges of Napata.
[2/11] Amonasro emerges from hiding, announcing that his men will be there waiting. In reply to the question of Radamès, he reveals his identity as Aida's father, Amonasro, king of Ethiopia. Radamès is aghast and cannot believe what he has heard. When assured by Aida of the truth of the claim, he is horrified at his own treachery. Amonasro declares this the work of fate and invites Radamès to cross the Nile with him and join the Ethiopians, to be rewarded by the hand of Aida. At this point Amneris, Ramfis, priests and guards emerge from the temple. Amneris declares Radamès a traitor, while Aida recognises the power of her rival. Amonasro threatens Amneris with his dagger, but is prevented from killing her by Radamès. Ramfis calls the guards, while Radamès tells Aida and her father to escape, prepared himself to stay.
Scene 1. The scene is a hall in the palace of the King. To the left a great door leads to a subterranean court of justice, while a passage on the right leads to the prison of Radamès.
[2/12] Amneris crouches by the door, regretting the escape of her rival: Radamès will be condemned as a traitor, although he is not, but yet he wanted to escape with Aida: she would save him, if she could.
[2/13] Radamès is brought in by the guards, and Amneris foresees his condemnation by the priests: yet he can still save himself and she will intercede with her father for him. Radamès vows he will say nothing in his defence. Amneris tells him that if he does not defend himself, he must die, but he would welcome death. She urges him to choose life, through her love: she will sacrifice country, throne and life for him. He, however, sacrificed his country and his honour for Aida, who is now dead. Amneris assures him that Aida is still alive: her father was killed, but she survived. She asks him to abjure his love for Aida, if she is to save him, but that he cannot do, preferring to die. Angry, she threatens revenge, if he rejects her love, but he declares death a great good: he has no fear of human anger. Amneris, however, still threatens revenge.
[2/14] Radamès is taken away, escorted by the guards. Amneris, now alone, sits, in despair, wishing to save Radamès and blaming herself for his capture. She turns and sees the priests crossing to enter the subterranean court, exclaiming on these inexorable ministers of death. She covers her face with her hands, blaming herself for the arrest of Radamès. Ramfis and the priests seek divine guidance, while Amneris prays for the release of Radamès, who is now taken down to the court, to her increased dismay.
[2/15] Accused by the priests, Radamès makes no answer. The accusers renew their demands and Amneris her prayers for mercy, while Radamès remains silent and is condemned to be immured, living, in the tomb. Amneris pleads for him, but in vain, and she ends by cursing them, as they go out.
Scene 2. The scene is divided into two levels, the upper representing the interior of the temple of Vulcan, splendid in its gold and light. The lower reveals an underground chamber, with long arcades disappearing into the darkness. There are great statues of Isis and Osiris with crossed hands, supporting the pillars of the court above. Radamès is there, on the steps leading to the chamber. Two priests above are sealing the entrance with a stone.
[2/16] Radamès prepares for death in the tomb, never to see the light again or his beloved Aida. At this moment Aida reveals herself.
[2/17] Aida explains how she has hidden herself there, anticipating his death, and here she too will die, in his arms. Radamès is overcome with emotion, that she, so pure and beautiful, will die for love of him and perish in the flower of her youth. Almost in a trance, she tells him to see the angel of death drawing near: Heaven now awaits them. The voices of the priests are heard from the temple above, praying to great Phthà, a sad song, Aida says, the triumph of the priests, their hymn of death. Radamès tries to move the stone that seals the chamber, but in vain.
[2/18] Together they bid the earth farewell, while the priests continue their chant, and Amneris, dressed in mourning, appears in the temple, throwing herself upon the stone that seals the underground vault. In the crypt below Aida dies in the arms of her lover, while Amneris prays to Isis for them and the priests still call on the great god Phthà.
The present transfer was made from the best portions of three copies of first edition British LP pressings. Some distortion during loud passages appears to be inherent in the original master tapes. Additionally, changes in the tape hiss level may be noticed at some of the original master's edit points.
Giuseppe Verdi: Aida
Recorded 10-12, 16-20, 23-24 August 1955 in the Teatro alla Scala, Milan
First issued as Columbia 33CX 1318 through 1320
Last Albums Viewed
VERDI: Aida (Callas, Tucker, Serafin) (1955)