on 16 November 2008
This superb production is a stunning success. The entire cast sings and acts with total authority and conviction. Fleming sings beautifully (even if she does look a bit like she's walked straight out of an American soap opera), my only reservation is over James Morris, whose acting is a bit hammy (he should have made less use of his (very strange) eyebrows). Domingo overwhelms. Levine gives the music all the ferocious power it needs, with a fantastically disciplined Met orchestra. Sets and costumes strike an ideal balance between traditional and modern, sumptuous and understated. One tiny gripe - not every line in the opera is subtitled. There are some serious gaps in the subtitling. Overall verdict though: excellent - the five stars richly deserved. I cannot imagine this opera better presented.
on 3 June 2005
Another great production from the Met. I bought this DVD without the benefit of a review. I was not disappointed.This is a typically traditional production from the Met but imaginitive lighting and colour creates a sense of modernity. Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming and the dasterdly James Morris are in fine form as is the Met orchestra under James Levine. The picture and sound quality of the DVD are excellent. This is one of the best of my growing collection of operas on DVD- now over 70, and I can recommend it without hesitation.
on 24 September 2012
My introduction to opera was hearing Domingo sing it at the Met in NY in 1985. From the moment he uttered his first note I was hooked and remember the audience being emotionally stunned at the end by his great acting as well as singing. I have seen Domingo in this role twice since at Covent Garden and each hearing has had the same effect.
It is one of arts moments of genius when a writer and artist together reach new heights of greatness. In my mind this performance is coupled with that of Paul Scofield's performance of King Lear (also available on DVD) where an artist is able to reach out and communicates directly with his audience.
The rest of the cast on this DVD are superb, especially Sergei Leiferkus as Iago.
on 20 January 2010
Legendary tenor Placido Domingo gives the definitive performance as Otello. As well as ringing tone, his voice has the desired body and warmth, while his acting is head and shoulders better than other tenors in this role. Kiri te Kanawa is also recorded in her prime and the two are incredible together. Sergei Leferkus is, however, only adequate and lacks the Italianate style need for such a key role. The Royal Opera House is, as always superb, while Sir George Solti ensures that it is a performance that will live in the memory.
on 1 March 2012
As you may guess from my review title I am impressed with James Morris as Iago, he is a malicious, devious delight putting his heart soul and voice into the role.
This takes nothing away from Domingo as the suspicious, tortured Otello, another fine performance. Renee Fleming is a credible Desdemona, I think that she puts more into these earlier performances than she manages now. There are no weak voices or performances in the supporting cast, and the chorus do a good job.
Sets and costumes are up to the Mets great standards. The direction of the cameras is what I expect from Brian Large, I do look for his name on productions, he has a great flair for picking the salient action.
I shall look no further for other versions, fearing I would be disappointed. I did have the Zeffirelli film version, incredibly cheap but incredibly poor. It has gone to a charity shop.
In the booklet the arias etc. are listed and timed, there is a section on the production and background of the performance, and a numbered synopsis, more comprehensive than most. The bonus items on the disc are hardly worth a mention.
If you like being wound up and harrowed by an excruciatingly sad story, this is the one. Watch, listen and enjoy.
on 1 March 2014
I have just finished watching this amazing performance on DVD. I was so drawn in by the dramatic acting as well as the powerful and beautiful singing. Lieferkus is a truly evil Iago, sly and insinuating. However, Domingo's acting; his tormenting jealousy is breath taking. The man is Otello! This is the greatest performance of an opera I have been privileged to watch live or on DVD, and I have seen so many! Buy it and see and hear art at its finest.
A marvellous production with outstanding cast and lively conducting.
Otello needs a great singer who can act and no-one owns this role like Placido Domingo. I couldn't live with this opera on CD (also Domingo, cond. Chung) but seeing and hearing Otello's soul poisoned by Iago's slime is so much more involving. Domingo's expressions of despair and shock are very moving. Iago is suitably malicious in the capable hands of Leiferkus, and Te Kamawa sings beautifully and never overacts as Desdemona - although I thought her lamenting and praying in Act 4 would never end.
For once, the realities of staged theatre add to the experience of watching a recorded relay on a TV set; the conditions seem to concentrate everyone's attention admirably. No gimmicks, just theatricality. The presence of Charles and Diana in the audience is the ironic crowning touch.
Solti, who I don't normally like, conducts a thrilling if occasionally whiplash rendition of the score. I was fascinated by what sounded like hints of Wagner's Parsifal in Verdi's score.
Recommended for repeated viewing.
on 5 November 2015
Many years ago I went to a showing of a film of Otello with Karajan conducitng and Jon Vickers singing the title role, I also have the CD's and it is a stunning recording, as was the film. However, Domingo has made this role his own - as he has done with so many other leads. At the time it was nigh on impossible to get tickets for this production, so the DVD release was always a welcome opportunity to watch a superb cast and an amazing performance.
The lead roles are excellent and provide excitement, pathos and the heart-moving reaction from the Love Duet in Act One to the final scene of Desdemona dying and Otello realising his jealousy.
But the lead roles aside, it is important to also note the magnificent singing by the ROH Chorus and playing by the ROH Orchestra - especially the violin solo.
Its a magnificent DVD and richly enjoyable to watch.
PS. Whatever happened to the Jon Vickers film?
on 2 May 2014
This opera was very well presented as you would expect at the Metropolitan. Both Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming performed to a good standard. The orchestra maintained the dramatic tension under the skillful baton of James Levine. For my taste I would have preferred Jago's (James Morris) baritone to have a deeper timbre, which I believe would have given more impact to his dark creed solo and the duet with Otello both in Act 2. This quality is well demonstrated by legendary baritones such as Robert Merrill and Tito Gobbi, but on the plus side, the lightness and subtlety in Morris's voice served the character well at other times. Overall the performance which I most enjoyed was Renee Fleming's Desdemona. Her precisely controlled voice seamed just right for the role of the tragic heroine.
on 7 December 2008
The story is simple, Shakespearean to the absolute extreme you can imagine. The peace and happiness of Venice is disturbed by the simple fact that a Moor, Othello, is welcomed as a hero after a battle he won in Cyprus. He is married to the daughter of a high ranking family, Desdemona, who is carrying in her own name the fact that she has a very doomed, demonized lot due to this very disruptive situation and love. This creates a rivalry, antagonism with the captain of the fleet, Cassio, and the extreme envy if not hatred from Iago is enough to turn a disruption, a breach of balance into a major catastrophe. A handkerchief and its supposed or alleged circulation will sign the end of Desdemona strangled by Othello, a strangulation that is very strange in this film since she will survive it long enough to expose her murderer and then die peacefully. Iago is then exposed in his treachery, killed by Othello with a spear instead of being tortured to death, and Othello finally kills himself with a dagger and still no blood at all. And balance is found again after the drama, the balance of sorrow, mourning and justice in a way. The play by Shakespeare and this opera reveals a deep racist inspiration. Othello is bringing this drama to Venice because he is a Moor, an Infidel, a Blackman, etc...That theme exists in other plays like "Titus Andronicus" or "The Merchant of Venice", with an anti-Semite dimension in these latter cases. The common theme is the hatred from a mediocre person who is trying to get even with better people than him by destroying them through some kind of plotting. But this plotting leads to the ultimate ruin of the plotter. We have to look over this dimension, common in Shakespeare's time, and see the more universal dimension. The man who is successful will inspire jealousy, envy and even greedy hostility. In this case, the object of that envy is Othello's wife and the game is to make the successful warrior kill his love, which he does out of some jealous lust, some possessive desire. The subsequent drama and the repentance of Othello shows how things are changing in these renaissance years, how women are little by little capturing some individual existence of their own, on the way to freedom, even if it ends up in death altogether. In fact Shakespeare in his English society is more advanced than Verdi in his 19th century Italy. Shakespeare doubles the point by making Desdemona's maid the final and lethal accuser of Iago and his lying and conspiring. We have to think of Romeo and Juliet but this latter case is pure love, no conspiration, jealousy or whatever, though the end is the same apart from the poison. A double death in the name of love. Zeffirelli does a pretty good job by creating a rich environment, at times maybe too rich. A slightly leaner production would have probably emphasized the beauty of the music and the singing. Othello as well as Desdemona reach the depth and density the tragedy requires. The cluttered setting de-concentrates our attention, even maybe our interest. The singing and the music require a stylized setting for our eyes not to get lost in the jungle of the visuals, short-circuiting our ears in their enjoyment of their listening.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines