The Salzburg Festival’s new production of Verdi’s Aida, conducted by Riccardo Muti and starring Anna Netrebko in the title role, will be broadcast Saturday, Aug. 26, on WFMT-FM (98.7) beginning at noon (CST). The broadcast, a taped version of the Aug. 12 performance, will be heard nationally over the WFMT Radio Network and streamed online at

Since its opening on Aug. 6, the opera has received rave reviews, especially for Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who in Salzburg leads the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna State Opera Chorus, and soprano Netrebko (Aida), tenor Francesco Meli (Radamés), baritone Luca Salsi (Amonasro), bass Dmitry Belosselskiy (Ramfis) and mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk (Amneris). Iranian-born visual artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, in her operatic debut, is the director. All of the production’s seven performances, with the last one on Aug. 25, have sold out.

In his review published Aug. 22, Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein wrote: 

The hottest ticket at this year’s Salzburg Festival was the return of Riccardo Muti as conductor of a new production of Aida, a Verdi masterpiece he never led during his 19-year tenure at Milan’s La Scala. In fact, this was only the second staging of Aida in the Salzburg’s 97-year history as Europe’s most prestigious summer celebration of classical music and theater.

It also was noteworthy for marking the debut of the celebrated Russian diva Anna Netrebko as the conflicted heroine, in one of the touchstone dramatic soprano roles in Italian opera. It spoke to Netrebko’s prudent husbanding of her vocal resources as she moves into heavier Italian opera roles. Despite a couple of minor vocal miscalculations, Aida’s music sounded like a good fit for Netrebko at this point in her career. … Gorgeous in flowing gowns and an elaborate hairpiece, she floated a melting high pianissimo at the close of “O patria mia” and generated genuine vocal excitement elsewhere in the Nile scene.

But this ultimately was Muti’s Aida. Today’s leading Verdi conductor was there to do the composer’s bidding down to the last musical detail. Everybody else was there to do the maestro’s bidding on behalf of Verdi.

Here was an Aida wiped clean of the vulgarization, distortion and picture-postcard kitsch that has passed for Verdi performance tradition, in Italy and elsewhere, for generations. One heard everything that is in the score and nothing that is not. By adhering to Verdi’s explicit tempo, dynamic and expressive markings, Muti brought an unusually intimate perspective to an opera that’s usually swamped in overblown, pseudo-Egyptian cliches. Right from the start, in the extraordinary delicacy he drew from the divided violins, you were made aware of how well such close attention to detail can illuminate the touching human drama that is Aida.

Also at the Salzburg Festival this summer, Muti led the Vienna Philharmonic in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Yefim Bronfman. For a review of the Tchaikovsky/Brahms program, click here. For more coverage of the Salzburg Festival’s Aida, click here.

TOP: Riccardo Muti (center) takes a bow with Francesco Meli (from left), Anna Netrebko and Luca Salsi at the Salzburg Festival after a performance of Verdi’s Aida. | Photo: Franz Newmayr/Salzburg Festival