After initial features
about the the building of the sets and
some pictures of people gathering for
the evening’s performance, the opera
opens with that famous storm scene,
which Zoltan Pesko leads with the required
rhythmic drive. The chorus, as always
in Verona, is good and the sheer size
of it means that there is no lack of
power. Compared to the Nabucco
from the same source that I reviewed
recently, this performance brims with
life and movement. There is some inventive
use of lighting effects and the camera
work is expertly done. Very often when
watching opera on video I feel that
I would like to see different things
than the producer has chosen but in
this case we are in total agreement.
Once the turmoil of the first act is
over the drama unfolds mostly in close-ups,
allowing us to follow the many nuances
of the acting and experience Otello’s
gradual mental destruction.
Close-ups can of course
be mercilessly revealing when the singers
are less than formidable actors but
in this case there are no such hang-ups.
The three main characters are sung and
acted utterly convincingly and the great
surprise may be Kiri Te Kanawa’s very
believable portrait of the innocent
Desdemona. So much has been written
about her all-purpose acting and lack
of understanding of the text. Everyone
suffering from this preconception should
at once get this DVD - they will be
in for a great surprise. Kiri is
Desdemona, she is the happy, loving
wife of the first act, she is the caring
friend who pleads for Cassio’s cause
in the second act, she is horrified
but still incredulous in the third act
and in the fourth sad and desperate.
A moving portrayal! And she sings gloriously.
The first act love duet, the scene with
the flower maidens, the willow song
– all is so lovely. And can Ave Maria
ever be better done? I have been a great
fan of Kiri’s since I first came across
her in the early 1970s and have loads
of her records. However I doubt if she
sings as magnificently as this on any
By her side, at least
in the first act, is Vladimir Atlantov
who is as close to being a perfect Otello
as one can expect to hear. His enormous
voice is in perfect condition, steady,
penetrating and also finding the lyrical
undertones that so often elude Otellos.
And he never tires. He is also a great
actor as I well remember from hearing
and seeing him in this role at Covent
Garden only a few years later. Caught
here on absolute top form he is on a
par with Domingo and Giuseppe Giacomini
... maybe even surpassing them.
And the evil powers
have a formidable advocate in Piero
Cappuccilli’s Iago, a role he never
recorded on commercial audio discs but
here caught at a happy moment with the
voice still in appealing condition.
In close-up he stands out as a marvellously
oily schemer, working with small means,
which makes him even more dangerous.
His Credo in act 2 is a masterpiece
of acting and singing and he also makes
the most of the Dream.
With such a great trio
taking the central roles the minor parts
tend to be even more over-shadowed than
usual but none of the other singers
let things down, and with fine sets,
tasteful costumes and good sound this
issue must be strongly recommended.
There are other DVDs of Otello around
that I haven’t tried, but this was definitely
one of the finest experiences of a standard
opera I have seen, live or elsewhere,
for a long time.