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For he's a jolly good Othello
on 5 April 2008
From the rousing opening to the desperate and tender finale, this is perhaps Verdi's most highly charged, sweeping score: a complete masterpiece. It's a natural project for Zeffirelli, who has filmed both Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet; Taming of the Shrew) and Opera (La traviata) successfully. And he pulls out all the stops here.
His storytelling is lucid, if sometimes overstressed, with dreams and flashbacks, but led by the music.
The only reason this isn't awarded five stars is the regettable decision to miss out the "Willow Song" in the final act. It's there in Shakespeare, also in Verdi's opera. It was recorded and issed on the soundtrack cd, exquisitely sung by the divine Ricciarelli. And yet Zeffirelli felt he knew better than all these people and removed it because it "held up the drama". Personally I see it as an essential "calm before the storm". With it, the film would have been perfection. Without it, it's still very good, but fatally decifient in that one respect.
Domingo is magnificent, the greatest Otello of his generation, no question, with Ricciarelli the most lovely and radiant Desdemona imaginable. Diaz at Iago is fine and the whole production is eye-poppingly sumptuous, as you would expect from Zeffirelli.
For the complete opera, try the live performances with Domingo - the Covent Garden production with te Kanewa is pretty good.