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Penguin Guide, January 2009

This is arguably the finest commercial recording of an opera the Maria Callas ever made. With her portrayal of the Ethiopian princess wonderfully intense, opposite the masterfully dramatic Tito Gobbi as her father, Amonasro, this readily matches their similar partnership in Puccini’s Tosca. Their duet at the climax of the Nile Scene, following on Aida’s big aria, O patria mia has ever been matched, and though Callas’s top notes are not quite as firm as they had been in her live Covent Garden recording of two years earlier under Barbirolli (Testament), few will resist. Though Richard Tucker as Radames is not the subtlest of tenors, his is a fine, heroic performance, and Fedora Barbieri is an impressive Amneris. The mono sounds is clear and generally well balanced in Mark Obert-Thorn’s excellent transfer. But the Regis transfer (by Tony Watts) is pretty sophisticated too. In the first Act it sounds remarkably full, with the solo voices splendidly caught (especially Callas’s) and, while Gloria all’ Egitto remains two-dimensional, overall there is no lack of atmospheric warmth. Both sets include cued libretti and you could be happy with either. But one other is essential

Maria Callas was one of the most inspired interpretation musicians of the 20th century, yet on almost all her studio recordings are flaws in her vocal production.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2007

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.

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