Aida In German

A friend has sent me a broadcast of Verdi’s Aida performed in the Theater an der Wien, in German as was the custom at the time. Until the mid 1970s, opera in Europe was always sung in the language of the audience. Imagine that?

I digress. The cast is mouthwatering in whatever language.

The great Leonie Rysanek at 29 storms the heavens in the title role. She has a voice like a knife. There’s little of what I’d call the intrinsic beauty of Tebaldi or Price, but you shudder with this Aida.

Heldentenor Hans Hopf does very well as Radames. Amonasro is sung by George London, with his huge, rolling vocie. I met him once when I was a kid. He was long retired. He was probably the most beautiful man I had ever seen. Everything about him said star, star, star.

I was especially interested in the Amneris. Contralto Jean Madeira, from Centralia, Illinois, was a neighbor of my cousin’s when she lived in Rhode Island later in her life. Madeira was underutilized in the States. This is the timbre of a great artist. She and Rysanek tear the place down. I forgot the performance was in German and not Verdi and Ghislanzoni’s Italian.

And when you are singing about “Mighty Pfath” and “Glory to Isis” what difference does it really make?  Heil Isis? Never mind. Giants were singing on the earth in Vienna in 1955. God bless ‘em, and God bless Verdi, who no doubt was smiling in heaven while thumbing a German-Italian dictionary.

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