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Otello (1986)

3.7 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo and Juliet) and renowned tenor Placido Domingo unite their mighty talents for this lavish production of composer Giuseppe Verdi's classic opera based on Shakespeare's timeless, tragic masterpiece Othello. Victorious general Otello (Domingo) returns in triumph to his adopted city of Venice after vanquishing its foes at sea. But noteveryone is poised to give him a hero's welcome. Even as his beautiful wife Desdemona (Katia Ricciarelli) lavishes him with affection, Iago (Justino Diaz), a disgruntled ensign, plots his downfall. And when Iago uses Otello's own jealous nature against him, he drives a wedge between husband and wife with devastating consequences!

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Justino Díaz, Petra Malakova, Urbano Barberini
  • Directors: Franco Zeffirelli
  • Writers: Franco Zeffirelli, Arrigo Boito, Masolino D'Amico, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: John Thompson, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus
  • Format: Classical, Color, Letterboxed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: March 4, 2003
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007KQ9Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,705 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Otello (1986)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Well, to start, I am huge fan of Otello, Domingo and Zeffirelli. But somehow I was disappointed (sometimes a lot!) with this movie.
Before I bought the DVD I had read some reviews, and most reviewers were chocked by the cuts in the score and I always thought: big deal. But when I watched it I understood: THERE IS ABOUT 25 min OF CUTS!!! Most of Otellos (Levine's, Karajan's, Toscanini's) are about 2h15. This one is 1h55 with over 10 min of music and ballet that Verdi never wrote (You do the math, and remember that Maazel's tempi are much slower than Toscanini's). Also, not only are these cuts of arias or ensembles, but even worse: Phrases are just cut off here and there throughout the Opera. The 1000 words allowed for the review won't be enough to enumerate them. Why??? A reviewer argued that it's to enhance the drama!! Come on, are you going to convince me that the finale of Act II (Si, pel Ciel) needs enhancement. Even this part is cut, and worse it's "Cut IN HALF AND I MEAN IN HALF" as another reviewer pointed.
So what does go right?
Well the scenary is amazing and I mean amazing. But what about the performance (this is Opera after all). Well again much can be said. Domingo once said that his performance was very much influenced by Zeffirelli. He wanted him to go into some deep barytonal voice (à la Ramon Vinay of you will), and the performance suffers.
Maazel conducting is far from being ideal. Should he be blamed? Well yes, like most of the singers who agreed to represent Zeffirelli's Otello and not Verdi's.
Finally, one of the reviewer said that Zeffirelli tried to "adapt" the opera and those who dislike is are not open-minded. Oh Please!
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Format: VHS Tape
If Franco Zeffirelli hadn't tampered with the music and made a couple of awful directorial decisions,this could have been a legendary film of a great opera. The singing and the voices themselves are breathtaking,and the acting is also quite good. The print I saw,however (on cable) has a curious flaw---the voices and orchestra (the famed LaScala Orchestra) are all an octave (or maybe a semi-octave) lower than they should be, and this is NOT true of the film's soundtrack album. But at least the film corrects the album's greatest flaw,of making the orchestra practically blast you out of your seat while the voices sound like they're in some kind of tunnel or drainpipe. The disastrous decisions include cutting important small bits of the opera,inserting the ballet music of the French stage production into the opening celebration, where it does NOT belong,and the most hideous mutilation of all, cutting the awesomely heartrending and beautiful "Salce" (The Willow Song), Desdemona's most important solo aria,from the film. (It can be heard on the soundtrack album--Zeffirelli cheats us by having his singers and orchestra pre-record the ENTIRE opera, so that it can be released complete on a soundtrack album, then cutting chunks of the opera only in the actual film.)

This isn't the only crime Zeffirelli commits against this most beautiful of Verdi operas. He leaves in or inserts sound effects and unnecessary flashbacks right into the middle of his arias,so that while Domingo and Ricciarelli sing their love duet,we see and hear,in a flashback to Otello's childhood,marauding soldiers on galloping horses snatching Otello from his mother while she screams hysterically.(This over the beautiful music and singing!)

On the plus side, Domingo, Ricciarelli and Diaz are memorable, and the photography,sets,and location filming are beautiful.
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Format: DVD
Yes, this is not a true stage production (is there ever a "true" production? Operas are edited/transposed/cut for the stage all the time). This is a movie. It is intended for a broader audience, and makes the most of different strengths and weaknesses of a different medium. I'm always amused by those who are outraged by the "changes" made to the story. Please! Some of the best parts of Shakespeare's "Othello" (including its entire first act)were left out of Verdi's libretto. And Shakespeare's Iago never delivers a speech anything like the famous "Credo." So for me, cries of "tampering" fall pretty flat. Verdi knew (as does Zeffirelli) that you have to *adapt* the story to the new medium. The important question is: is this adaptation a good movie? Yes. The acting, the visuals, the pacing makes the story and the characters come alive. And like his work in "Romeo and Juliet," Zeffirelli makes the Renaissance almost painfully beautiful to see. I imagine there are many who will respond more favorably to this treatment than a traditional staging. This really is a work of art, and movie buffs shouldn't hesitate. There are several taped stage productions, and if that's more to your taste, check out the Domingo/Solti DVD.
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Format: VHS Tape
I disagree that this is a poor version - it's just different from the score and most staged productions. The cut of the "Willow Song" was bad judgment, perhaps, but I found the flashbacks regarding his childhood and the ballet interesting and well done. Zeffirelli always has the courage to be innovative and tries to bring some new vision to his productions. I have all the filmed versions that are available and have this one on VHS and LD, therefore, have shared it with many friends and those new to opera. Everyone just loved it without having a staged production to compare it to. The staged production from Covent Garden, Solti and Te Kanawa is wonderful and highly recommended (5+ stars). However, I liked the excellent performances in this movie, the settings and photograpy if not Domingo's makeup and teeth, which I can live with. Katia, Placido and Justino were a great cast and did a very good job of acting and singing. I feel it is a credible MOVIE version of this, which required dubbing. It is one of my all time FAVORITE operas, (I've seen Placido perform live 25 times between LA and NY with various other cast members). The best version is one from The Met with Placido, Fleming and Morris but not available commercially. Write to The Met and request they release it for production on DVD - then the best would be available. Placido wasn't totally pleased with this film either and it was shot at a sad time in his life as well, having just lost his beloved father. I recommend this as a really good buy if you like opera movie videos. It sure beats anything Hollywood has churned out in the last 10 years! Thanks to Amazon for making all these opera videos available! We Opera Buffs can never get enough of the sport and need videos to keep us going in between live performances!Read more ›
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