Magazine article Gramophone

Rossini: Otello

Magazine article Gramophone

Rossini: Otello

Article excerpt

Rossini [EC] [DVD-V] [Br] Otello John Osborn ten                       Otello Cecilia Bartoli mez                Desdemona Peter Kalman bar            Elmiro Balberigo Edgardo Rocha ten                       lago Liliana Nikiteanu mez                 Emilia Javier Camarena ten                  Rodrigo Nicola Pamio ten                        Doge Ilker Arcayurek ten               Gondoliere 

Zurich Opera Supplementary Chorus; Orchestra La Scintilla of the Zurich Opera / Muhai Tang Stage directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier Video director Olivier Simonnet Decca [F] [DVD-V] 074 3863DH; [F] [Br] 074 3865DH (156' * NTSC * 16:9 * DTS-HD MA5.1, DTS5.1 & LPCM stereo * 0 * S/s) Recorded live, March 2012

Rossini's Otello has had a handful of stagings in recent years but none as potent as this. Conceived for the appropriately intimate spaces of the Zurich Opera, where this tautly shot telecast was made, the production has as its headline act the Desdemona of Cecilia Bartoli--appropriately so since it is Desdemona who stands at the centre of Rossini's tragic dramma. Not that Bartoli is treated as the star. This is very much an ensemble performance, meticulously staged and intelligently sung.

The staging updates the action, though in the hands of directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier the update is discreet and finely managed. The Venetian setting cannot be changed--what would become of the offstage gondolier's song which has haunted audiences down the years?--nor does it require any special directorial intervention to point up the elements of racial conflict which Maria Berio's libretto makes no attempt to disguise. Men in suits congratulating a successful commander-in-chief whose colour is a problem for some is not without its contemporary resonance.

The use of modern 'effects' is sparing but telling. I think of Desdemona copying out the words of the gondolier's meditation on the pain of the remembered time, the paint dripping red down the palazzo wall; or, a little later, Desdemona taking out a windup gramophone to play the haunting harp solo which prefaces the Willow Song. …

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