28 Jan 2007


Who is the potential consumer for this DVD release of a 1953 Italian film version of Verdi's Aida, featuring Sophia Loren's stunning physical presence and Renata Tebaldi's stunning vocalism in the title role?

Perhaps avid fans of the actress will want this, as she is in her youthful prime here and, despite some rather heavy "darkening" make-up, a gorgeous spectacle in herself. Certain devotees of dated, even corny cinema may find some pleasure as well.

But for those who love the opera, this DVD should be avoided. Cut down to about 90 minutes, the film employs a dull narrator linking the scenes with rudimentary plot points, spoken in English over music. The first words? "As the opera begins...." That is damage enough. However, if the film were otherwise in good condition, some enjoyment might still be found. The film is not, however, in good condition. There are many slight skips and jumps in the editing. The overture is butchered, starting with the "triumphal march" before cutting back to what Verdi actually composed. The director even interposes a flashback at one point, showing the havoc the Ethiopians (looking like extras from a bad Tarzan movie) had wreaked on the Egyptians. The climax is butchered by both poor film quality and bad direction, and as a capper, recorded applause ends the show. Incomprehensible. The sets and costumes do have an old-time appeal, but the cinematography has lost its luster, with the colors often washed-out.

Besides Loren, the other actors try their best, although the lip-syncing is often inadequate. Only the Radames (sung by Giuseppe Campora) is weak, a skinny pretty boy named Luciano Della Marra.

The DVD offers no booklet (at least the review copy didn't). Neither are subtitles provided, and there are only a few chapter selections. But never mind. Even with those features, this DVD would not be a satisfactory Aida for any but those understandably besotted with the beauty of the young Loren.

Chris Mullins