on 25 March 2014
In my view Otello is the pinnacle of Verdi's operatic achievements surpassing his other late-flowering masterpiece Falstaff.
I am not alone, of course, and there are abundant recordings, both audio and video, to vouch for this. The choices, then, are not so easy. I have regularly feasted on this supreme work for over half a century and yet had never heard the Toscanini.
I ultimately decided to 'audition ' it as I am so fed up with wobbling singers these days. ' Go back to days when there were still great singers' I thought. I had heard Vinay, Browenstein (and Sutherland) and Gobbi in the principal roles - indeed I appeared in the Covent Garden production with these singers. Vinay might have been vocally a bit past his prime but he was still electrifying and quite terrifying in his rages while Gre Browenstein was a beautiful and sympathetic Desdemona.
In this recording we have him at his best - and surely the best-suited to the role in recent times. Others are too light-weight, too young, too strained, too run of the mill and often not up to it.
He is well-supported by all the principals but it is Toscanini who gets the best out of the orchestra and all the cast, delivering a historic performance of white-heated, dramatic, intensity that pretty much eclipses the rest.
The sound, too, is remarkably good and nothing is lost to age. Don't be afraid of investing in this recording: you will not regret it!