Mario del Monaco (Otello), Renata Tebaldi (Desdemona), Leonard Warren (Iago); La Scala/ Antonio Votto
Myto 41083 [2CD] 140 minutes
Tebaldi and Del Monaco twice recorded Otello together in the studio, and we've reviewed a number of bootlegs starring one or the other; but this 1954 La Scala performance has, according to Myto, never before been released. (Wrong — it was once on Melodram.) It brings the two great Italians together with Leonard Warren, who can match them decibel for decibel, and the enthusiastic audience — they go berserk after Act 3 — knows it's hearing something extraordinary. The sound is not state of the art, but it's clear enough to capture the beauty of the voices and the nuances of the singing; the ear quickly adjusts to any sonic shortcomings.
Del Monaco's brazen voice was, of course, perfect for Otello, but he sings with more variety and subtlety than he's usually given credit for. He does hold the final top B-flat of 'Dio Mi Potevi' forever, and the audience loves it. Perhaps he wanted the spotlight squarely on him after Act 2, which Warren easily dominates. In the `Si Pel Ciel' duet, he matches the stentorian tenor note for note. Warren didn't much like singing at La Scala, but I'm sure his Milanese fans wished he had come more often. Tebaldi is at her best, the voice plush and seamless from top to bottom, the legato perfect, the dynamics superbly controlled. There are some starry names among the comprimarios (Giuseppe Zampieri as Cassio and Giorgio Tozzi as Lodovico), and Votto leads strongly but gives his singers plenty of room. Recommended to admirers of the stars — especially Warren, who never recorded Iago commercially.
Ralph V Lucano
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2004 ISSUE (VOL. 67 NO. 6) OF AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (ARG). IT IS REPRINTED HERE WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF ARG. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON ARG, GO TO ITS WEBSITE AT www.americanrecordguide.com.