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02 August 2005


Music: Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto: Arrigo Boito, based on the play Othello by William Shakespeare
Performers: Placido Domingo (Otello), Katia Ricciarelli (Desdemona), Justino Diaz (Jago); Lorin Maazel conducting the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1985, for the film Otello by Franco Zeffirelli

Although the photo is from the DVD, I listened to the recording from the film instead. From Otello's entrance, I came to understand why Placido Domingo is so well-known all over the world, even to those who do not know opera. His voice is charismatic, powerful, smooth, and warm. There is such expression in every note. I was thoroughly impressed. I can also understand why Verdi had initially wanted to call the opera Jago, because Jago is by far the central character. I kept waiting for his schemes to cease long enough to let Otello get a note in edgewise. That said, the music accompanying Jago's arias was particularly sinister and fed well into the feeling of his natural malevolence.

Katia Ricciarelli's voice was much thinner than the brusque, hearty quality I heard from Montserrat Caballé in Tosca. I think I preferred Tosca's thicker, more authoritative voice, but Ricciarelli's interpretation of the bewildered, loving, innocent Desdemona was greatly in keeping with the part. I also adored the finale to Act III, in which Otello, Jago, Desdemonda, Emilia, and the whole of Cyprus (it seems) sang together in a magnificent aural assault. I quickly scanned the libretto to get the overall impression of what would be expressed, then closed my eyes and tried to take in the overwhelming cacophony of voice and song. Quite remarkable.

I still feel as if I am an innocent who has just discovered film for the first time, trying to find my way in to a new medium. What if a person had only seen two movies? How would he be able to judge whether or not what he had seen was "good"? All I know of opera is a few lectures, one time through Tosca and this. How am I to know if, critically, this was a sub-par staging, if this was the operatic equivalent to an awful film? In the end, I don't think I care; I enjoyed this experience and feel like the opportunity to see it performed live would be one I would not miss.

Blogger Diva Kitty's Mom said...

Don't miss Jose Cura in the role as well!

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

I had replied to your original comment, but it got lost in the move over here. I appreciate recommendations on singers as a place to start - I see from Amazon that Cura has done La Triviata as well, which is on my "listen to" list :)


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