Tenors truly equipped to sing the role of Radames are few and far between.
Caruso, Martinelli, Pertile, Lauri-Volpi, del Monaco and Vickers are names that spring immediately to mind.
Franco Corelli was certainly among their number; indeed, on the strength of his performance here he might be considered at least their peer.
The metallic, stentorian tone, the fiery declamation, the long-breathed phrasing quite belie the reputation he had while active for being somewhat below the calibre of his predecessors in the part.
There is nobody today, not even Domingo or Pavarotti, who can deliver Radames’s music with such panache and seemingly endless reserves of power.
His account of that old warhorse, ˝Celeste Aida˝, with its trumpet-like accents, careful use of portamento and broad phrasing—listen to how he takes ˝Del mio pensiero tu sei regina˝ in a single breath—is memorable, and the final B flat is attacked forte, then fined away to a piano.
Similar sensitivity is evident in the middle of the Third Act duet with Aida.
Then there’s the sheer thrill of Corelli’s heroic sound on the high As, flung out, as it were, into the theatre, after the discovery of Radames’s treachery.
In the Fourth Act, Corelli captures much of the pathos and dignity of Radames before Amneris and finds much of the eloquence for the finale.