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The other Otello - Zurich 2012
on 7 May 2014
In Rossini’s “Otello”, the Moor is tricked into thinking that Desdemona is unfaithful to him, she sings a beautiful song about willows and then it all ends badly. But that’s about where the similarities with the Shakespeare and Verdi versions end. However, as early nineteenth century libretti go, it’s still pretty good. My only real problem was not being able to understand why, given that she KNOWS that her letter to Otello has been intercepted by her father, she doesn’t simply mention it to Otello. This would have saved her a lot of grief!
Otello is one of Rossini’s very finest scores. It’s not performed nearly as often as it deserves to be, probably because of the difficulty of getting three top-notch tenors in one place at one time. This Zurich production manages just that. John Osborn is superb as Otello (he’s blacked up, which will doubtless upset a few people). The stand-out tenor is Javier Camarena as Rodrigo – in the Rossini version promoted from a bit-part to being the son of the Doge and Desdemona’s other suitor. He sings magnificently, both in the heroic and in the gentle quiet lyrical passages. Totally brilliant – I can understand why he’s been getting rave reviews at the Met recently. Edgardo Rocha as Iago also acquits himself well.
Of course, this is really Cecilia Bartoli’s show, and she’s brilliant – as well as being totally herself, of course! It’s a good thing that Rossini’s Desdemona is not Shakespeare’s naïve innocent, but a far more feisty and rebellious lady – which suits Bartoli very well.
The production is in modern dress (60s, I think?) but otherwise pretty much sticks to what was intended. The only thing that bothered me was that the first scene of Act 2, where Desdemona has a long confrontation with Rodrigo, is meant to be set in a garden, but here it’s set in Desdemona’s bedroom. No wonder Otello gets jealous!!
Sound and pictures are both superb. Technical details: 24-bit LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
All in all, thoroughly recommendable. To my knowledge, this is the only version currently available on DVD/blu-ray, and I suspect will remain so for some while.