Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clip of the Week - December 1 - Aida - Act IV, scene 1

This perhaps one of my favorite scenes in all of opera (I have lots of favorite).  But this scene combines great vocal demands on the singers and an intense dramatic situation + there is chorus + there are prominent parts for bass clarinet and English horn.  Now, what could be more perfect than all of that!  This performance is from the Met in 1988.  Dolora Zajick is Amneris and Placido Domingo is Rhadames.  This is - for me - perhaps one of the finest performances of this scene I have ever experienced.  Both singers are brilliant - but Rhadames is taken off to be judged and he refuses to defend himself - so Zajick as Amneris is left to dominate the rest of the scene and she is spectacular.  The end is simply thrilling.  Also - note - by the time he composed Aida, Verdi had started to break away from the orchestra traditions of his predecessors like Donizetti and the score to Aida is one of Verdi's best orchestrated scores.  His use of the winds in particular is really creative - note the mournful bass clarinet and English horn in the duet (it almost reminds me of Wagner's use of the bass clarinet in "Tristan" during King Marke's monologue).  And then there is the syncopated trumpets in the transition to the judgment scene - followed immediately by the low horns which accompany the entrance of the priests.  Off stage brass punctuate the judgement scene - along with perhaps the most famous bass drum solo in all of opera.  Then the low horns return terrifying as the chorus returns to the stage singing "traditor."  And to finish it all of Amneris curses them with intense hate.  Finally - the brilliant Met orchestra is conducted by James Levine.  Notice as the encounter between Amneris and the priests conclude that Levine very subtly pushes the tempo - this adds so much to the drama and the excitment of this scene.  He is also spot on with Zajick at the end.

I was thinking of posting the link to this scene from Liciu - but the filming was not as good.  Overall it was just too dark and fuzzy.  It is good - but of the versions of this scene available on YouTube - this is, in my opinion, the best.  Enjoy......  (it is in three parts - unfortunately).

Aida – Act 4 – Scene 1 – Zajick and Domingo

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