Happy Birthday, Sophia!

Sophia Loren as Aida in 1951, with help from Renata Tebaldi.(Photo: cinecitta/UPI)
Sophia Loren as Aida in 1951, with help from Renata Tebaldi.(Photo: cinecitta/UPI)

The sublime Sophia Loren was born on this date in 1934. A great wine of a woman, more delectable with age.

But what is Sophia Loren doing on a classical music blog?

Simple. In 1951, Sophia Loren starred in a studio-bound Technicolor mish-mash film of Verdi’s Aida. Sophia appeared with Lois Maxwell, Afro Poli and Luciano Della Mara. They were seen. Renata Tebaldi, Ebe Stignani, Giuseppe Campora and Gino Bechi were heard.  This was the greatest cast for Aida at the time, in the opera house.

On film, the plywood and plaster sets flapped away. The voices soared and the actors glided and stared.

The score is brutally cut, but there’s no stopping these voices. Lois Maxwell, Lucia Della Mara, Gino Bechi and our Sophia are all great to look at. There are some marvelous visuals. Well, at least two of them.

After thirty plus years, this Aida was taken out of the vaults of Cincecitta for theatrical release in the States. Loren attended the New York premiere. I saw the film with a bunch of hardy Met standees a few days later, on a snowy afternoon at the Regency Cinemas at 84th and Broadway. Long gone, now a Starbucks. But on a snowy day in 1983, we watched dazzled, and listened, enthralled, to Verdi.

Buon compleanno, Sophia!

P.S. Sophia Loren’s elder son, Carlo Ponti Jr., is a conductor, now in his 11th season as music director of the San Bernardino Symphony.

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