IMDb lists 17 versions of this, Verdi's masterpiece, of which no less than 6 feature Plácido Domingo as Otello. This recording of a Covent Garden production in 1992 is the 4th in a series that starts in 1976 and ends (so far) in 1991. To Domingo, it appears to be a career-defining role. In both this production and the 2001 production from La Scala, which I have also seen, he is at his peak vocally and he utilises his considerable dramatic ability throughout the range from tender lover to paranoid avenger. His scene near the beginning with Kiri Te Kanawa's Desdemona is imbued with eroticism. We first hear the leitmotif "Ancora un bacio" (one more kiss) that we hear again at the very end when both are lying near to death. When I first heard this leitmotif, so reminiscent of the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, I thought I was the first person ever to notice Wagner's influence but when I Googled "Wagner's influence on Verdi" I got 116000 hits, so I must have been the last one to know.
Sergei Leiferkus is a bloodcurdling Iago. His Credo: "I believe in a cruel God" frightened the wits out of my cat, who was watching with me. His scene where he whips Otello into a frenzy of paranoia is also dramatically riveting and merits an interval curtain call for the two of them. However, it is Dame Kiri's performance that sets this Otello above any other version that I have seen. She has a tender intensity in the quiet passages and her dramatic interpretation is spellbinding, particularly her long final scene with the Willow Song, culminating in her death. Conductor Georg Solti's interpretation of the score is at its best in the storm scene and the Iago-Otello duet where the music at times seems quite barbaric.
Visually this is as beautiful a production as you could hope to see. Sets, lighting and costumes create a sumptuous effect. The sound can be somewhat muffled, particularly in the choruses, as though there was just one microphone at the back of the auditorium. I give this production 9/10 for technical merit, marking it down for the sound and for the quality of Dame Kiri's wigs, but I give it 11/10 for artistic impression so, on average, it deserves its 10 stars.
As if this doomed marriage was not enough for one evening , at the end of the performance we see Prince Charles and Princess Diana, sitting together in the royal box, applauding enthusiastically.
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