The premiere of OTELLO was one of the greatest moments in operatic history. Verdi was near the end of his career. Only FALSTAFF succeeded OTELLO and in the eyes of many, OTELLO is Verdi's greatest achievement. Music lovers of the day, who were usually late for performances made an exception and arrived early for OTELLO. The public was so excited at the premiere, riots nearly started on the streets of Milan. The crowds were so enthusiastic about the music, the applause and cheering was deafening, at least according to legend. OTELLO still causes excitement. This adaptation of the Shakespeare play, which tells of pure love as well as the tragedy that results when power and jealousy take control of a person is timeless. When the greatest singers are assembled and have the vocal gifts to bring this great work to life, the results are magical. Three great voices who are legendary in this opera include Mario Del Monaco as Otello, Renata Tebaldi as Desdemona, and Aldo Protti as Jago.
Verdi's OTELLO always tops my list of favorite operas, and Mario Del Monaco and Renata Tebaldi are my Otello and Desdemona of choice. I also enjoy Aldo Protti's Jago. Protti is masterful as the evil Jago. Fans of Tebaldi, Del Monaco, and Protti have a choice of two great recordings of this work: one under the baton of Alberto Erede and the other under Herbert Von Karajan's direction. The Erede recording was recorded in 1954, sousing the best technology of the day, and it still sounds great today. Del Monaco, Tebaldi, and Protti are in better vocal from in this recording. The chorus and orchestra are excellent as well. All of these elements make this re-release by Decca a true gem for the opera lover.
Many people looking at this review are probably trying to decide between this recording and the Karajan version. Both are among the best recordings of this work. While either would make an excellent choice, there are a few differences. Del Monaco is more majestic in the Karajan recording, though in the Erede set, I find that Del Moanaco's singing is cleaner. Tebaldi and Protti are similar in both sets. In the Erede set, the orchestra is not as powerful as the trademark full blown sound characteristic of most Karajan sets. For those who love Karajan's sound, this will be an asset. I happen to love the Karajan recordings I have in my collection, especially the OTELLO, but Erede's more understated though still powerful orchestra does highlight the vocal talents of the singers, which is what makes opera opera. One of the things I do enjoy about this recording is that at some of the more powerful moments of the opera, specifically Otello and Desdemona's Act I duet and the finale of Act III, the singers and orchestra are not competing with each other as can be the case in the Karajan set. Overall, this recording is enjoyable and makes a wonderful primary or back-up recording.