Verdi: Otello

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: C Major
WORKS: Otello
PERFORMER: Aleksandrs Antonenko, Marina Poplavskaya, Carlos Álvarez, Barbara Di Castri, Stephen Costello, Antonello Ceron, Mikhail Petrenko, Simone Del Savio, Andrea Porta; Konzertvereinigung; Chorus of the Vienna State Opera; Salzburg Festival Children’s Choir; Vienna PO/Riccardo Muti; dir. Stephen Langridge (Salzburg, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 701408 (NTSC system; DD 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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With a work as great and demanding as Verdi’s Otello, it is certain that no production will be ideal, but the performance recorded here, from Salzburg in 2008, comes as close as we are likely to get.

Riccardo Muti can unleash volumes of sound and torrents of passion as no conductor since Carlos Kleiber has been able to. We begin with the equivalent of a high-voltage electric shock, and the intensity is maintained through to the final chord. 

The production is broadly traditional, with projections used for the raging seas and other natural effects, as well as a certain degree of patterning onstage. The acting, most of which is in sweaty close-up, is excellent, the singers all nurtured in their roles by Stephen Langridge. 

Otello is played by Aleksandrs Antonenko, who is tremendous  in all respects. His Desdemona is the lovely Marina Poplavskaya, vague of diction but an expert in suffering. Carlos Álvarez’s Iago and Stephen Costello’s Cassio are both nothing short of outstanding. 

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My only cavil is that Muti opts for the revised ensemble at the close of Act III. Written for Paris in 1894, it is so obviously inferior to Verdi’s original version as to make Muti’s choice seem peverse. Even so, to my mind this is the DVD Otello to go for. Michael Tanner