This is, of course, a very dark opera, filled with tragedy and passion, deceit and suspicion, jealousy and despair. It's generally ranked among Verdi's finest and is certainly among my favorite Verdi operas, along with Aïda, Rigoletto, and Il Trovatore. All that said, however, the story here is Domingo. Not that Verdi is somehow pushed to the background (in a masterpiece like this, how could he be?) or that the other performers are comparatively weak (they're quite excellent) – it's just that the great Spanish tenor is in such fine voice at his age (almost sixty-one when this was recorded) that one must marvel at the sounds he produces and the drama he engenders. His effort here holds up remarkably well even in comparison with his 1978 RCA Otello, a performance led by James Levine (with the recording-only orchestra, the National Philharmonic), and Renata Scotto as Desdemona and Sherill Milnes as Iago.
Here, Barabara Frittoli delivers an innocent, passionate, utterly convincing Desdemona and Leo Nucci is an appropriately evil Iago. (Is there any villain in all literature to challenge Shakespeare's [and Verdi's] Iago for pure evil?) The other cast members are also quite effective, and Ricardo Muti conducts with an incisive baton, drawing fine playing from the orchestra and imparting a subtle sense of tension to the music in the right places.
The sound is vivid and the stage direction (under Graham Vick) is imaginative and fully convincing. In the end, though, it will be probably Domingo's fans who will be most proud of this DVD. Strongly recommended.
Copyright © 2003, Robert Cummings