March 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / March /


Audio Book Review

William SHAKESPEARE
Othello  
3 CDs AUDIO BOOK
  NAXOS NA 320612   [3hrs 1min]

Othello

This tragic tale is one of the most famous stories in literature, a powerful, intricate work of great emotional resonance. Filmed a number of times over the years, its most rewarding incarnations have been dominated by two giants of the stage and screen, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. Welles’ version in 1952 was a labour of love, financed with his own money earned from acting in numerous productions around the world. Not only did he play the title role quite brilliantly but also produced, directed and adapted the play for the screen. For those who have not yet discovered it, make it a priority. Also of enormous quality, this time because of the work of the leading actor, is the 1965 filming of Laurence Olivier’s celebrated stage performance. Plainly filmed and a million miles away from the visual tour-de-force of the Welles production, we are left to marvel at the power and intensity of Olivier’s vivid portrayal. And while there have been several other notable interpretations (Anthony Hopkins’ BBC production in 1981, Laurence Fishnburne in 1995) the Welles and Olivier versions stand as the best produced thus far.

And so Naxos are faced with the difficult task of following in these illustrious footsteps. Thankfully they succeed very well with an accomplished cast giving a strong reading. Hugh Quarshie, probably most familiar to audiences for his role as Captain Panaka in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, has the passion and authority needed to bring the title character to life and Anton Lesser, as his Iago, has more than enough expression in his voice to do justice to that devious character. In fact Lesser is someone whom I’ve long admired and apart from being a well respected stage actor, he also appears regularly in British television productions (one of the most recent being an instalment of the excellent Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes). In the difficult role of Desdemona Emma Fielding also acquits herself well and the entire supporting cast are polished and professional. As with all Naxos audio books the musical accompaniment is well chosen and here features extracts from the works of Giovanni Gabrieli and Vincenzo Capirola.

Although literature in audio form is often seen as a poor relation to film and television, I for one feel it offers a unique experience, allowing the words to speak in the mind and the imagination. So close your eyes and be transported to another time and place and immerse yourself in the tale of ‘One that loved not wisely but too well’.

Mark Hockley

****

Return to Index

 
Reviews from previous months


You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: