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This Radamès is a tenore robustissimo, far more apt to thwack the Ethiopians than to adore Aida. So he is at his best and worst at the outset of the opera. Here he yearns for command of the Egyptian army [listen -- CD1 track 3, 0:00-1:00]. If Verdi asks for pppp in the course of 'Celeste Aida', Del Monaco takes not the slightest notice and woos in the only fashion he knows. Always thrilling, he is seldom subtle. The rival women are soon at it, with Ebe Stignani an outstanding Amneris, spitfire, triumphant and ultimately stricken, and Renata Tebaldi's Aida floating wonderful sounds to assuage her agony. Only Ramesses II could have found this boring [listen -- CD1 track 4, 4:26-5:24]. With the campaign successfully over, the whole cast assembles in ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) to hymn the praises of Egypt's sacred land and Isis its protectress. This gives a fine chance for the Rome chorus to thunder its satisfaction and to prepare for the revelation that Amonasro, king of the Ethiopians, is among the captives [listen -- CD1 track 13, 0:52-1:58].

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Copyright © 1 February 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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