On April 7, 9, and 12, 2011, Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and the Chicago Children’s Choir in Verdi’s Otello at Orchestra Hall. Principal soloists were tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role, soprano Krassimira Stoyanova as Desdemona, and baritone Carlo Guelfi as Iago.
In the Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein wrote, “Seldom has Verdi’s penultimate masterpiece sounded so orchestral; Muti made Otello sound like the dramatic symphony Verdi never wrote. Muti brought out instrumental details almost every other conductor glosses over or ignores. Everything that makes this Verdi’s supreme lyric tragedy was there for the ear to marvel at, writ larger than life. The intensity never let up, nor did the steady current of lyricism that informs the drama.” Andrew Patner in the Chicago Sun-Times added that the Chorus “offered oceans of sound” and the “Orchestra—and Verdi and Muti’s enormous attention to its multiple roles in this masterwork—told the story.”
Regarding the performance in Carnegie Hall on April 15, “The Orchestra played with crackling precision; the impressive and sizeable Chicago Symphony Chorus sang with unforced yet robust sound and clear enunciation of the text,” said Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. “It was a privilege . . . to hear this work performed in concert by this superb orchestra.”
Recorded live during the concert performances in Chicago, the opera was released in September 2013 on CSO Resound. George Hall in BBC Music Magazine wrote, “Verdi’s Otello as conducted by Riccardo Muti benefits from tip-top precision from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra players. They reach a level of pristine excellence that any opera house orchestra—no matter how eminent— would struggle to equal.” In Gramophone, David Patrick Stearns said, “Here is one of the great Verdi conductors of our time, who is now doing some of the best work of his life, recording the composer’s greatest opera. . . . [The Orchestra is] 100 per cent devoted to him (its famous brass section particularly) and a world-class lineup of singers to which the conductor gives a surprisingly free rein.”
The recording received the International Opera Award for Best Complete Opera in April 2014 in London.
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