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Huntley Dent
Fanfare, May 2015

In this new recording Robert Dean Smith is the most modestly triumphant Otello I’ve ever heard, vocally speaking.

The northern Spanish city of Oviedo has a good opera orchestra and chorus, to judge by this performance, and conductor Friedrich Haider handles the score judiciously… His phrasing is appealing, especially in the most tender passages. The sonics are satisfying. © 2015 Fanfare Read complete review



Richard Sininger
American Record Guide, March 2015

…Robert Dean Smith…is a very respectable Otello. He sings very musically; he hits all the notes; and his dramatic ability seems satisfactory.

…the chorus and orchestra perform very well under Friedrich Haider. © 2015 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, February 2015

Raffaella Angeletti is a marvellous Desdemona. Her voice is all cream and honey, radiating the character’s beauty, and she is wonderful in both the love duet and, equally importantly, the big confrontation of Act Three. Sebastian Catana is also a very successful Iago. He sings the part with a voice that would curdle milk, full of malice and cunning but never unmusical and tapping into the character’s deceptive beauty.

Friedrich Haider conducts excitingly, pacing everything just about right…and the orchestra follow him well. © 2015 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, January 2015

The recorded sound is prima—and the very opening of act I is as good a test-track as any with wind howling, waves beating against the pier and people shouting in despair when they see the ship fight a battle with the sea. The orchestra is excellent. The chorus, Orfeón Donostiarra, is regarded as the most important choral ensemble in Spain and rarely have I heard this music sung with such clean attack, such even and homogenous sound. In the second act the ladies of the chorus on their own deliver ethereal pianissimo singing, and here the admirable boys from León de Oro turn out to be golden-toned. The dramatic end of the third act is also excellent.

Italian soprano Raffaella Angeletti’s Desdemona is a real find. She has a beautiful spinto voice in the Tebaldi mould. …I was very much looking forward to the Willow Song in act IV, and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole scene was utterly touching…

Luis Dámaso is an excellent Cassio and the remaining cast never let the listener down. © 2015 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Joseph Newsome
Voix des Arts, December 2014

Otello is more dependent upon the capabilities of its central characters than almost any of Verdi’s other operas, but this recording features a cast of strength from the smallest roles to the three leads. …the choristers of Los ‘Peques’ del León de Oro and Orfeón Donostiarra bellow and sigh assertively…and Maestro Haider’s intuitive handling of bel canto idioms gives the melodic lines in Otello special luminosity. [Surprising] is the mastery that Maestro Haider demonstrates in leading the admirable playing of the fiercely dramatic score by the Oviedo Filharmonía. The brass players give particularly commendable accounts of their difficult parts, but all of the orchestra’s musicians furnish imposing performances. …Maestro Haider and the orchestra achieve epic dynamic contrasts that aptly evoke the polarized environments in which the fates of Otello, Desdemona, and Jago collide.

[Otello]…is not an opera for weaklings: strength is the trademark of the efforts of Naxos’ team of singers, musicians, and technical staff, and, perhaps most remarkably, they succeed in blending the necessary muscle with appeal. This is an Otello to be savored… © 2014 Voix des Arts Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2014

There is certainly no shortage of star-studded studio recordings of Verdi’s Otello already in the catalogue, this new release taking us right to the heart of the tragedy. Sadly the high cost of opera projects will preclude most of the great singers of our present day ever placing their performances on disc, as was the prerogative of previous generations. So the American tenor, Robert Dean Smith, will think himself fortunate that this Spanish made recording has given him the opportunity to be included among the finest exponents of Verdi’s great tenor role placed on disc. He is a heldentenor with fifteen years of leading roles at the Bayreuth Festival already behind him, his Otello a heroic person whose mental disintegration is palpable as the story progresses, and by the end of the third act he roars like a wounded bull. In his final encounter with Desdemona he is a broken man. It is extremely moving and I commend it to you. In the role of his tormentor, Iago, we have the much experienced Romanian baritone, Sebastian Catana. He is not in the mould of Tito Gobbi’s devious character, but a diehard villain who is hell-bent on Otello’s downfall, his big and bold voice depicting a person of equal stature to Otello, and who could physically dominate him. The finale to act 2, where they swear an oath of allegiance to one another, is a show of his personal strength, and that equally marks his sneering contempt at the end of the third act. Raffaella Angeletti’s Desdemona is not that of a demure wife, but one who can stand up for herself, and is well aware that something is going sadly amiss, the final act Willow Song a strongly vocalised aria. I would also point to the excellent lyric tenor of Luis Damaso as Cassio, though from therein the cast is rather routine in vocal quality, a fact equally true of most recordings. One of the most important choral ensembles in Spain, the Orfeon Donostiarra, make an imposing crowd of spectators as Otello’s boat docks in a violent storm, and later add cameo touches of sensitivity. I guess the Oviedo Filarmonia is not a large orchestra, but they provide a weighty accompaniment—the double bass passage in the third act as good as any on disc—their conductor, Friedrich Haider, keeping the action moving with urgency. Naxos are not very forthcoming as to the origins of a recording that apparently used material from 2007 and 2009. It was made in the theatre of the Spanish city of Ovido, the rather congealed sound in the opening storm seemingly from a ‘live’ performance, but with no audience applause, and with the singers always perfectly captured, you soon think these were studio sessions. Whatever the source I urge you to hear an account that is very high on reality, and offering three outstanding singers. © 2014 David’s Review Corner





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