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Verdi’s aida

‘Thrilling’: Jonas Kaufmann (left), Anja Harteros (centre) and Antonio Pappano perform Aida in concert following the recording sessions i a i l i c

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: M u s a c c h p h o t o g r a p h y

When I talk to Pappano at the end of a packed day of recording in February, his famous energy and enthusiasm seem to be further buoyed by the excitement that such a project could have finally come to fruition – ‘A miracle!’ he calls it, his eyes lighting up. ‘It’s been in the making for quite a long time, and it’s been quite fraught. Operas in the studio are no longer being made – or are only being made very rarely. So to convince Warner and to find the dosh and all that stuff, that’s been a struggle. But with this cast? And in Italy? You have to ask yourself why certain recordings are made, but I think with this one that it’s a no-brainer.’

everybody has their favourite,’ Pappano admits. ‘Cossotto this and Caballé that, Leontyne Price this and Simionato that – there’s nothing you can do about it. But I have singers who are known for their finesse, and there are very few singers I could do this kind of Aida with.’

And what sort of Aida is it? The answer seems to be one that captures all the subtlety of the score, without any loss of theatricality. But Pappano, the renowned man of the theatre,

‘I’ve never seen a great Aida production – I don’t think they exist. This recording is an opportunity to do it well ’ – Antonio Pappano is surprisingly candid when explaining why Aida itself was the work he wanted to record. ‘It’s never really done well in the theatre,’ he says bluntly, referring not just to the difficulty of getting the stars of

Rumours about the project had abounded for years, with one indiscreet soprano even announcing herself in programme biographies as the Aida for the recording. Pappano laughs when I remind him of that, but is happy now to have found ‘the right moment’ and the ‘right singers’. Kaufmann is joined by his fellow German Anja Harteros as Aida; Ludovic Tézier, arguably the leading Verdi baritone of the younger generation, is Amonasro; Ekaterina Semenchuk is Amneris; and bass-baritone Erwin Schrott adds extra star power as Ramfis. ‘With these pieces the necessary vocal quality into any one theatre for any length of time, but also to the basic incompatibility of the work’s need for grand spectacle with modern opera houses’ budgets and aesthetic outlooks. ‘I’ve never seen a great Aida production, and I don’t think they exist,’ he tells me. ‘My whole opera career has been about working with the best stage directors I possibly can, and that collaboration has been everything in my life. But here I get to do that work. Everything is in the imagination of the people involved. This is an opportunity to try and do it well.’

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