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Verdi's magnificent drinking song is marvellously done. The Iago of Lado Ataneli knows exactly what he is about. With tankard in hand and only mildly quaffed, he incites the roisterous Vittorio Grigolo as Cassio and Vicenc Esteve Madrid's Rodrigo to let rip with the chorus till riot is inevitable [watch and listen -- DVD 1 chapter 4, 14:50-16:02]. Othello has proved himself an uncommonly good sailor; now José Cura is in impressive command of the island's good order and quells the disturbance with the natural authority of a man used to obedience and with the vocal resource to effortlessly impose his will. Iago, though, is already preparing his snakelike snare.

A scene from Verdi's 'Otello' showing John Macfarlane's set. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu
A scene from Verdi's 'Otello' showing John Macfarlane's set. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu

The set of John Macfarlane is simplicity itself, defined by two mighty walls that seem to confine the action ever more menacingly. The only prop is a large wooden cross, symbolic, I suppose, of a united Cyprus. That Othello smashes it later is for the moment irrelevant, as Othello and the Desdemona of Krassimira Stoyanova must first rapturously celebrate their reunion [watch and listen -- DVD 1 chapter 6, 23:20-24:47]. We learn later that this Desdemona can float a line with utmost tenderness; but she does not always command the essential innocence that should make her constant championing of Cassio nothing but a plea of disinterested generosity.

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Copyright © 23 July 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller