Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Giuseppe Verdi
WORKS: Otello
PERFORMER: José Cura, Dorothea Röschmann, Carlos Alvarez, Benjamin Bernheim, Christa Mayer, Georg Zeppenfeld, Csaba Szegedi, Gordon Bintner; Staatskapelle Dresden / Christian Thielemann; dir. Vincent Boussard (Salzburg, 2016)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 740008; Blu-ray: 740104


This is director’s opera with a vengeance. Though the synopsis in the booklet narrates the action as Verdi and Boito intended, the action doesn’t follow that at all. It is set nowhere, no-time, and Otello isn’t a Moor. There are no sets, and the only prop is the fatal handkerchief, in this production a small diaphanous sheet. When Otello, in the opera’s most terrifying moment, near the end of Act III, hurls Desdemona to the ground, he merely shouts at her and she sinks gracefully to her knees. No bed, of course, and Desdemona dies standing up. Are there compensating insights from the director Vincent Boussard, working with the fashion designer Christian Lacroix? Not that I could see; one wonders what the ‘creative team’ did to earn their fee.

What of the musical performance? Otello is played by José Cura, a highly seasoned veteran whose first appearance, the celebrated ‘Esultate!’ is disastrous, so wobbly that I dreaded the rest of the performance.  Fortunately his subsequent singing, though hardly secure, is at least tolerable, and his acting lends to the work what dignity it has in this version. Dorothea Röschmann makes many beautiful sounds, as one expects, but also some too-mature and blowsy ones, and with no dramatic context she is not harrowing. The star is the Carlos Alvarez as Iago, creating his own world of evil intrigue. He is potent enough a presence for the ridiculous Angel of Death, a woman with huge black wings, which burst into flame at one point, to be superfluous. Christian Thielemann conducts his marvellous orchestra with refinement and with just, traditional tempos. But for me that and the Iago aren’t sufficient compensation for the many infuriating features of this strange affair.

Michael Tanner


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