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Verdi: Otello
Giuseppe Verdi, Tullio Serafin, Rome Opera Orchestra
Verdi: Otello
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2

Plácido Domingo may be the most famous Otello of our times, but most seasoned opera-goers will tell you that Canadian tenor Jon Vickers was the best. Compared to Domingo, the Vickers voice is bigger, more focused, less tex...  more »


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All Artists: Giuseppe Verdi, Tullio Serafin, Rome Opera Orchestra, Jon Vickers, Leonie Rysanek, Tito Gobbi, Franco Calabrese, Miriam Pirazzini, Robert Kerns, Florindo Andreolli
Title: Verdi: Otello
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 1
Label: RCA Living Stereo
Release Date: 7/5/2005
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 090266318025

Plácido Domingo may be the most famous Otello of our times, but most seasoned opera-goers will tell you that Canadian tenor Jon Vickers was the best. Compared to Domingo, the Vickers voice is bigger, more focused, less textured, and lyrical; the Vickers temperament is much more volatile, like a coiled snake whose fury--when unleashed--was truly terrible. He recorded it twice; this is his best performance. Everything else about this recording--baritone Tito Gobbi as Iago, conductor Tullio Serafin, and the Rome Opera forces--is up to his standard with one significant exception: the miscast Leonie Rysanek as Desdemona. Her covered Germanic soprano sounds oddly matronly and remote. But with Vickers--at mid-price--this is still a good deal. --David Patrick Stearns

CD Reviews

(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is, by far, the best Otello recorded. The late Serafin is hard to beat, superb. His speeds are at the slow side, but with great intensity and profoundity. The humanity of Otello comes out movingly. The climaxes are built to perfection by his experienced baton. He is the main reason for buying this set. Vickers is a perfect singer to match Serafin's qualities. His voice is strong (though not as Vinay's) and the characterization is as detailed as the conducting. Gobbi is unbeatable. Rysanek is stronger-voiced than most Desdemonas today, and it reveals to be a positive point. Desdemona becomes a true woman, not a boring child. The sound is fantastic, much better than most digital recordings of our day. Strongly recommended."
A Great Stereo Otello
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 07/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is surely the "Otello" to have if you're having only one. The CD transfer is faithful to the excellent stereo sound of the original LPs (the original cover has been retained, but not the lavish Soria booklet that accompanied the LP set). Just about my only regret: the ballet music that Verdi wrote especially for the Paris premiere, which was included on the original LPs, has not been retained here.

Vickers emerges as the finest Otello of the past 50 years - it is amazing to me that this recording from 1960 actually preceded all of his celebrated stage performances. The Canadian tenor's huge voice is used with great intelligence: he gives us the most complex, vulnerable, achingly tortured, and superbly acted Otello on disc. I think you have to go all the way back to Vinay and Martinelli to find anything remotely comparable.

Unlike several of the reviewers here, I find Rysanek's Desdemona very convincing: save for a few tenous moments, it is most beautifully sung and sympathetically acted. And what can I say about Gobbi's supremely malevolent Iago? While not one of the greatest of baritone voices, Gobbi gives us the most insinuating and thrilling Iago ever. Serafin draws magnificent playing from his Rome forces and shapes the music with the surest of hands. He opts for rather slow tempos, but they never drag.

I have heard but do not own the great 1938 Met broadcast with Giovanni Martinelli (it was on Music & Arts 645). The Chilean tenor Ramon Vinay (like Domingo and Bergonzi, he started out as a baritone) left recordings with three of the last century's greatest conductors: Wilhelm Furtwangler (1951 "live" Salzburg Festival on EMI), Arturo Toscanini (RCA), and Fritz Busch ("live" 1948 Met broadcast - mine is on Penzance LPs). For those of you with a historical bent, these are all vital performances well worth a hearing.

Vinay (heard in best voice with Busch) is similar to Vickers' anguished Moor - but he lacks the ringing high notes of the Canadian's true heldentenor voice. Furtwangler, in his only recorded Verdi opera performance, finds some lovely colors in Verdi's score: his reading is alive with symphonic insights. Unfortunately, the sound is rather poor and the rest of the cast is not very special. Dragica Martinis is a rather wan Desdemona, and Paul Schoeffler strikes me as a rather unidiomatic Iago. Toscanini is Toscanini: brisk, forceful, dramatic. His opening storm is truly volcanic in its fury - everybody else's sounds rather tame in comparison. His Iago is Valdengo, who gives a wily, brilliant performance on the same plane as Gobbi's. But Herva Nelli is a very passive and rather uninteresting Desdemona. Busch conducts a dramatic reading similar to Toscanini's, and benefits from a sympathetic Desdemona (Licia Albanese) and the most opulently sung Iago of all (Leonard Warren in fine fettle, but lacking some of the interpretive subtleties that come across so well with Gobbi).

To summarize: for an excellent Otello in modern sound, this Serafin set is surely one of the top choices. And for a supplement from the past, there are several fine sets to choose from: my choice would be the Martinelli and Vinay/Busch sets, should they re-surface on CD."
A very noble recording!
Mark | United States | 02/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I find this set to be the most noble Otello on record. Even though recorded in 1961 the sound quality is excellent!Otello is about passion, hatred, rage and jealousy! The conductor should be able to show all these elements and makes us feel them...I don't think serafin managed to do all this. He choosed slow movements and tempis and made this recording...about 20 minutes more than Toscanini's which is the ultimate reference.However this set won't lack interest at all..and this mainly for two reasons: Tito Gobbi and Jon Vickers.Gobbi is the perfect Iago and it is here that you will find him at his best. He doesn't sing in a mean ugly voice (too many Iagos do!) but with a malignant intelligent one...light in times and dark in others pushing Otello to his outrage! Splendid.Vickers IS the most noble Otello of all times. With his big voice plenty of passion he delivers here the best Otello on record. And as Domingo fan, it is difficult for me to admit that Vickers is better than him. I find Domingo's voice much more beautiful and is a much better actor but Vickers' is more suitable and he sings Verdi's notes entirely! The other definitive Otello is Del Monaco with the most powerful voice ever. But Del Monaco's powerful voice screws in the ligh passages.Rysanek is a beautiful Desdemona. An excellent actress (just like Gobbi).There are 4 excellent Otello recordings. (Levine RCA, Karajan DECCA, Serafin RCA (this one) and Toscanini).

This one is a MUST. Buy it at least for Vickers and Gobbi."