A document of a historic performance
George Thanos Assimakis | Athens, Greece | 12/19/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a DVD of a historic performance of Verdi's Otello. It preserves on image Mario del Monaco's Otello and Tito Gobbi's Iago.
Unfortunately, the image quality is far from being remotely acceptable. It is black and white, out of focus most of the time and high contrast so that either the faces are too bright and all you see is a white blurb, or too dark for you to see the action. With Japan's reputation for cutting edge technology, even in the late 50's, this is totally unacceptable. It gives me the impression that it was taken with an old 8 mm camera placed in front of a television set with a bad reception. This is the only way I can account for such a bad image quality and the fact that you get huge Japanese subtitles embedded in the text. One short scene is missing visually but the sound is preserved.
Now to the performance: Mario del Monaco was probably the most famous Otello of the post war era. Both his vocal and his visual performances are exceptional. He is a tough Otello, that makes you feel from te start that poor Desdemona has no escape! His performance is preserved on a film version with Tulio Serafin conducting also from the late 50's. The image quality there is much better, and if it is del Monaco you want to see, this may be a better choice. What makes this performance truly exceptional is Tito Gobbi's Iago. Here is a master of the role that acts and sings it out in a way far superior to anyone since. It is a pity that the image is so bad that one often misses his extraordinary expression in his face. Vocally he is superb as well.
The rest of the cast are quite ordinary with nobody being really bad or truly exceptional. Gabriella Tucci's Desdemona is good, well sung, but rather uninspired. Mariano Caruso's Casio is possibly the weakest link in the cast. Plinio Clabassi's Lodovico is very good. The sets are very good as well. The stage directions are hopeless. Alberto Erede conducts the Japanese orchestra, which at times sounds so thin that it reminds one of a school orchestra rather than a professional body of players. The chorus sings well with a Japanese touch, far more appropriate for Madama Butterfly than Otello! As for the audience, one reads on the cover that it was a performance that set the Japanese public ablaze. This is certainly true if one is to judge from the applause, but they do tend to spoil the end, and sometimes not even the end of most of the famous arias in the Opera.
Is it worth getting? Perhaps yes, if you really like the Opera and would like to have such a valuable document in your possession. As for the price tag, it is certainly too high for what you are getting. But such is life. If you really want something you have to pay for it!"
thor | Alameda, CA United States | 06/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"no one who cares about opera should miss the chance to see and hear mario del monaco and tito gobbi together "live" as otello and iago, roles in which they were unsurpassed in their time.
it's true that this dvd's audio and video quality don't match modern standards, but for a 1959 tv broadcast they're perfectly fine, and the theatricality of the stars will sweep you away. del monaco and gabriella tucci as desdemona sing a ravishing "gia nella notte densa" that will surprise anyone who has dismissed del monaco as relentlessly loud.
necessary caveats: the embedded japanese subtitles are ever-present and can't be removed, and the video for otello"s "ora e per sempre addio" is missing (we see a series of stills of del monaco as the audio plays). despite its marks of age, this is the most satisfying "otello" on commercial dvd, and until the domingo-freni-cappuccilli performance under carlos kleiber at la scala from 1976 gets a legit video release, it's likely to remain so."