Album Review: Aida/ Bocelli/ Lewis/ Mehta


Andrea Bocelli has recently released his 39th album, a recording of Verdi’s Aida, on the Decca label (483 0075). Aida is Bocelli’s 13th opera album and his second recording of a single Verdian opera – the first was Il Trovatore in 2004 conducted by Steven Mercurio. Other explorations of Verdi’s repertoire include an album of arias with Zubin Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic in 2000 and the Requiem in 2001  with the formidable forces of Valery Gergiev, Renee Fleming, Olga Borodina and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.

For Aida, Bocelli has reprised his collaboration with Zubin Mehta who this time, conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Bocelli of course sings the role of Radamès with American soprano Kristin Lewis as Aida and Italian mezzo-soprano Veronica Simeoni as Amneris. Giorgio Giuseppini sings the role of Il Re (the Egyptian King),  Ambrogio Maestri is Amonasro and Carlo Colombara sings Ramfis. It has been twelve years since Bocelli’s last Verdi recording and there is a sense that Bocelli, born in 1958, has bided his time to take on this repertoire; that it is something he has always wanted to achieve as a personal and professional milestone.

Aida is a tale of fierce drama, passion and ultimately, tragedy. Devoid of visual input, the performers who commit opera to disc have to work extra hard to engage the listener and convey the intensity of the narrative. The powerhouse cast sings with musical integrity and indeed draws us into the story of the doomed lovers. Maestri has a rich and reverberant bass sound; Simeoni is a compelling Amneris; Bocelli sings a noble Radamès with a lighter timbre than is usually heard; however, there are moments when he has to summon more heft than seems comfortable to achieve his higher notes. The ensemble singing is well balanced and blended.

Award winning soprano Kristin Lewis is the real find of the project, singing with an effortless shimmer that tints the various colours she achieves throughout her range. She has sung the role at the Teatro alla Scala, the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, the Staatsoper im Schiller Theatre, Berlin and the Wiener Staatsoper. She brings a practiced ease and an exciting young voice to the role.

The chorus and orchestra are superb and Mehta’s direction is impeccable. It is the fifth recording collaboration between Mehta and Bocelli and if the recording partnerships are a yardstick, it is a relationship that has clearly matured along the way from the early Verdi anthology of 2000 to Turandot in 2015 and now, Aida.

Recorded at the Opera di Firenze, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in April 2015, the slightly edited opera is spread over two discs. The CD liner contains the Italian libretto with English translation, synopsis and historical notes by writer and Bocelli chronicler Giorgio De Martino.

There are many excellent recording of Aida from which to choose. However, Bocelli’s Aida has several points of distinction, chief among them, the musical direction of Zubin Mehta and the performance of Kristin Lewis. Most importantly, this will be an indispensible addition to the collection for fans of Bocelli and collectors of his recordings.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©



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