Friday, July 15, 2005

Otello on DVD: mixed bag

This is the second DVD issue of this performance I own. The first, also on DG, was visually poor: grainy, faded color, speckles throughout.

The superb quality of the Ponnelle/Böhm Figaro led to high expectations for this reissue, and sure enough, it's a major improvement visually over the first issue--less grainy, deeper and more saturated color, and clean as a whistle. The stereo PCM soundtrack is excellent, about on par with the first issue, which did at least have remastered audio.

The performance is equivalent to the EMI studio recording. Vickers was going through a bad patch, vocally speaking, and there are some rough moments--his Met performances of a few years later are superior. Freni sings prettily, but she's utterly devoid of feeling. Glossop's Iago is a reasonably intelligent performance, but the voice is in ruins.

Karajan's leadership is altogether more precious and less dramatic than his 1961 Decca recording, one of the great sets in the catalog. The Berlin Philharmonic plays well, but the slick, polished sound is all wrong. The chorus is satisfactory--no more.