Verdi: Otello

LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Otello
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sergei Leiferkus, Robin Leggate, Ramon Remedios; Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Georg Solti; dir. Elijah Moshinsky (London, 1992)
CATALOGUE NO: OA R 3102 D (NTSC format; PCM 2.0; 4:3 picture format)
Though presentation here is very limited – the DVD itself has no extras, and the booklet contains only a synopsis – the performance itself is outstanding. Recorded over two performances at Covent Garden in October 1992, Elijah Moshinsky’s production is highly traditional and handsomely designed. It’s also been thoroughly rehearsed, so that even the individual chorus members seem to have a clear idea of what they’re doing at any given moment. Scenes such as the Act I swordfight are unusually vivid and energetic. This was also probably the best cast available for the opera at that time. Sergei Leiferkus’s dark Russian tone may not have much Italianate quality but it suits Iago down to the ground. Kiri Te Kanawa could be a dull actress, but here she’s fully engaged and her limpid tone makes her a near-ideal Desdemona. Otello has been one of the highpoints of Plácido Domingo’s remarkable career, and if his voice and manner lack the superhuman quality someone like Jon Vickers brought to the Moor he is nevertheless noble and heroic. All the smaller roles are finely cast, with strong standouts from Robin Leggate’s elegant Cassio and Ramon Remedios’s vacillating Roderigo. The chorus produces empowered tone and the orchestra is on keen form under Solti, who clearly admires every bar of Verdi’s masterpiece and brings to it a blend of theatrical dynamism and musical detail. George Hall