Otello | Chicago Reader


Let's give Franco Zeffirelli (Endless Love) the benefit of the doubt and assume that this hyperactive 1986 version of Verdi's tragic opera is a form of cultural polemic: an argument for the vernacular antecedents of an art that's become the exclusive province of an educated elite. Still, it's hard to see who would be pleased by the creative coarsening up: not opera purists, who'd object to the visual busyness that continually obscures the operatic line; nor kinetic-movement enthusiasts, who'd be put off by the stolid rounds of arias amid the incontinent visceral swirl; nor fanciers of clarity, who'd look in vain for the singing principals lost among the 16th-century grillwork, pennantry, and halberds. The overheated staging isn't far removed from the theatricality and color of Michael Powell's Tales of Hoffman, but the lack of formal control is: Zeffirelli's images are so slack, his emotional signals so awkwardly cued, that hardly any action registers with unambiguous force. The sensibility remains as hyperromantically mired as ever, though aficionados of Renaissance painting may appreciate the Carpaccio-like detailing of the cluttery period milieu. With Placido Domingo, Justino Diaz, and Katia Ricciarelli; Lorin Maazel conducts the sturdy Verdi score. 120 min.


Cast information not available at this time.

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