Verdi: Aida (Met Live CD) – Leontyne Price, Carlo Bergonzi

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Verdi: Aida (Met Live CD) – Leontyne Price, Carlo Bergonzi

Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Artists: Leontyne Price, Carlo Bergonzi, Grace Bumbry, Robert Merrill, Jerome Hines, Louis Sgarro, Robert Nagy, Lilian Sukis, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Thomas Schippers
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Metropolitan Opera
Release Date: December 13, 2021

Live performance recorded February 25, 1967.

It is not hyperbole to say that Leontyne Price redefined her greatness and her value to the Metropolitan Opera during its inaugural season at Lincoln Center. She sang only 15 performances, in three operas, during the regular 1966-67 season, but all of them testified to her unassailable artistry and commitment, as well as to the dazzling prime of her unique voice. 

In the third of these operas, Price returned to the role in which she remains without peer, the title heroine of Verdi’s Aida. Of its twelve performances that season, four featured Price at the head of another dream cast – tenor Carlo Bergonzi as Radamès, baritone Robert Merrill as Amonasro, and mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry singing her first Amneris at the Met, with Thomas Schippers conducting. 

“Miss Bumbry sang [Amneris] with an imperious, scorching intensity,” Alan Rich wrote of her in the New York World Journal Tribune. “Every phrase was produced with such naturalness and ease that one soon forgot everything but the character itself.” 

A revered figure at the Met for more than 30 seasons, Carlo Bergonzi brought his uncommon style and elegance to the role of Radamès. Of Robert Merrill in any Verdi role at the Met, little needs to be said; the majestic singing speaks for itself. 

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This grandest of grand operas, Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida features an epic backdrop for what is in essence an intimate love story set in ancient Egypt packed with magnificent choruses, dramatic arias, complex ensembles and elaborate ballets. The opera is, at its core, a profound exploration of the conflict of private emotion and public duty.

The score of this 4-act opera is a sophisticated example of Italian Romanticism as heard in the “Celeste Aida” right at the beginning of Act I, her impassioned “Ritorna vincitor!” that follows and her great internal journey, “Qui Radamès verrà! O patria mia” in Act III. At the center of Act II, is the great Triumphal Scene, which ranks among opera’s most celebrated moments.

Notable performances include a 1955 production conducted by Tullio Serafin with Maria Callas as Aida and Richard Tucker as Radamès, as well as a 1959 performance conducted by Herbert van Karajan with Renata Tebaldi as Aida and Carlo Bergonzi as Radamès.

Today the work holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world.

At the Metropolitan Opera alone, Aida has been performed more than 1,500 times since 1886 and was presented again in the Met’s 2018–19 season.

Aida was commissioned by and first performed at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House on December 24, 1871.



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