Jonas Kaufmann, Federica Lombardi, Carlos Álvarez (voices); Orchestra e Coro dell’Academia Nationale di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
Sony Classical 19439707932 170:07 mins (2 discs)
Otello was the role Jonas Kaufmann’s fans had long been waiting for him to play. Following his stage debut in the role at Covent Garden in 2017, a far wider audience now has an opportunity to hear his performance in this recording made last year in Rome. This is a release that appears to be all about the big name, but it ends up offering the listener a good deal more to enjoy.
Antonio Pappano’s interpretation of Verdi’s penultimate opera makes for an exhilarating ride. This is a conductor in his element, coaxing a performance of thrilling dynamism from the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. The chorus, too, is on top form; the storm scene and the ensemble at the end of Act III are particularly notable highlights.
Sony Classical has assembled a fine cast for this recording. Carlos Álvarez is a magisterial Iago, snarling with menace in the ‘Credo’, flitting deceptively between light and darkness as he taunts Otello in ‘Era la notte’. Liparit Avetisyan as Cassio has the most exquisite youthful heroic tone one could wish for, while Federica Lombardi is a Desdemona with a voice of astonishing purity and technical control. And what of Kaufmann himself? Well, he is at his best when really required to act, in moments of anger or torment. Where quiet tenderness is called for, on the other hand, it is hard to ignore a degree of vocal unevenness. Stars sparkle aplenty here, then, but it is not the most anticipated one that shines the brightest.