Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


AIDA (1953). Director: Clemente Fracassi; Conductor: Giuseppe Morelli.

An Italian film version of Verdi's great opera that stars Sophia Loren in the title role, Luciano Della Marra as Radames, and Lois Maxwell (yes, Miss Moneypenny of the James Bond films) as Amneris, the other woman who adores Radames. The roles are actually sung by Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppi Campora, and Ebe Stignani, respectively. The emphasis in the film is on spectacle -- battle scenes, marches, big sets of temples with pillars and the like, long ballet sequences with long-stemmed beauties in colorful costumes and so on. Unfortunately, the opera itself is occasionally severely cut to make room for these scenes, with narration telling the audience what they might have missed in the meantime. The acting by the two ladies is quite good; Della Marra comes off as handsome and heroic and noble (and is almost prettier than Loren) but a bit stiff in the more emotional moments. The singing is simply superb. Loren's delicate lip-syncing doesn't quite match the powerful vocal performance of Tebaldi. Although quite attractive, Loren in Ethiopian colorings is not as beautiful as she became in later films; Maxwell, however, looks so gorgeous that you can't imagine James Bond wouldn't have taken her up on her offers if he saw her in this movie (made a few years before the first Bond film). Musical highlights that have not been cut include Radames' “Celeste Aida” (sung magnificently by Campora); the great martial chorus from act one; the Grand March and choruses from act two; Amonasro's act two aria; Aida's “O patria mia” from act three; Amneris' aria and the final duet for Radames and Aria from act four.
Verdict: An interesting curiosity featuring much of Verdi's great score. ***.

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