9 November 2006 | RobertHI
Very fine video of Verdi's greatest opera
For a video of a live, staged opera, it really doesn't get much better than this.
Here we have what is advertised as Placido Domingo's final performance of Otello, and his long experience in this role shows in every detail, amazingly with hardly any trace vocally of his rather advanced age (for a singer) of 64 years.
He is supported by a wonderful cast, and most outstandingly by the superb chorus and orchestra of La Scala, Milan, all conducted by one of the finest and most experienced of Verdi conductors, Riccardo Muti.
The drama crucially benefits from the casting of the young, attractive Barbara Frittoli (who is also blessed with a gorgeous and sensuous voice) as Desdemona, and the young, sexy Cesare Catani as Cassio. The audience can much more readily accept that this much older Otello would be insecure about his marriage with Desdemona and easily deceived by Iago (Leo Nucci) into believing his wife is involved with Cassio.
The set design (Ezio Frigerio) and lighting (Matthew Richardson) are quite beautiful, especially given the limitations of a unitary set and the presumably limited budget. One might have some reservations about the staging of Desdemona's final scene where she is forced to sing the first half of the Ave Maria lying on her side on a bed that looks like a cot. Mostly, however, the stage direction by Graham Vick is naturally appropriate and does not unduly call attention to itself.
The costumes designed by Franca Squarciapino are evocative of the period and place (15th century Cyprus under Venetian rule), and are made from stunningly shiny modern materials which work especially well with the sets. Although these costumes are often beautiful in effect, they unfortunately do not always hang gracefully on the singer's bodies and are sometimes less than flattering.
Finally, the superb video is wide-screen with subtle color and outstanding sound. The video direction, editing, and camera work (Carlo Battistoni, Maurizio Bonomi, and Danilo Marabotto) are all first-rate.