This is a French film of an Italian-Russian co-production from the Maggio Musicale in Florence. It is minimally staged with the chorus standing at the back wearing evening dress and singing from the score. The principals perform on a small stage containing only a bed which, of course does not come into use until the final act. All this sounds terrible but it is, in fact, quite successful. It is imaginatively lit and it proves that you can put on effective opera without spending millions of euros.
Zubin Mehta gives a good reading of the score successfully capturing both its violent and its romantic episodes. We also at one point get an on-stage balalaika orchestra; presumably it came with the Russian part of the deal. Otello is sung by Vladimir Galouzine. He comes over as a bit of a wimp and his Italian sounds more like Russian but at least he does not black up. Carlo Guelfi is a more effective Iago bringing the right degree of menace to his Credo. Barbara Frittoli is a surprisingly good Desdemona. I have criticised her 2001 La Scala performance in this role but here her acting is more effective and her voice more dramatic so that her Willow Song is very moving.
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