Zubin Mehta

Verdi: Otello

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Verdi: Otello Review

by Stephen Eddins

Orfeo's release of Otello captures a live 1987 performance from the Vienna Staatsoper. The sound quality is very fine for a live recording. The voices are full and vibrant, the orchestra is clear, and the balance is very good. There is some ancillary stage, pit, and audience noise, but not enough to be seriously distracting. The performance is strong enough to make this a version that should be of interest to Verdi fans and fans of Plácido Domingo, who is outstanding in the title role. Otello was a signature part for the tenor, an ideal showcase for his large, ringing voice, and for his skills as a singing actor capable of embodying a troubled character with exceptional commitment. This is a strong cast, but Domingo easily dominates the proceedings, commanding our attention whenever he is on-stage, as a truly effective Otello must. It's especially impressive to hear his beautifully calibrated escalation in passion as his jealousy grows toward his final murderous outburst; he's fully successful in projecting the character's tortured complexity. Anna Tomowa-Sintow has both vocal power and tender vulnerability as Desdemona, and "Salce, salce," and the "Ave Maria" are especially lovely and moving. The duet that closes the first act is one of the highlights of the performance. Renato Bruson achieves mixed results as Iago. His "Credo in un Dio crudel" lacks power and heft, but he gets vocally stronger as the performance progresses, and in his smaller moments, he conveys a chilling, understated malevolence that makes his Iago truly scary. The supporting characters without exception are vocally and dramatically compelling, making this a powerfully engaging ensemble piece. Zubin Mehta leads the Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper in a dramatically charged and strategically paced reading of the score.

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