Despite the considerable merits of the third act from Rossini's version of "Otello", the rest of the music is much more ordinary; in particular, I am uncertain about the quality and the effectiveness of the Act II confrontation between the title hero and Rodrigo (tenor), the rejected lover of Desdemona (soprano), especially when we compare the piece with the already posted glorious terzet from the maestro's later "La donna del lago". One reason for this is the fact that the original Shakespearean play actually refused altogether to develop any kind of conflict between the presumed rivals, a decision that resulted in a realistic heightening of Othello's paranoia, while Rossini's libretto, based on a drama that had been staged in Naples in 1813, "Otello" by Baron Carlo Cozena, reverts to a much more common love triangle (a not very well-developed one, at that) with a larger role for Rodrigo almost forced upon the opera to the detriment of the bard's experiment in psychology. This trait of the libretto is especially evident from the present terzet which forms a stark contrast to the already posted scene from "La donna del lago".
The scene is straightforward enough. We begin with a dramatic (bordering on the melodramatic) duettino for the rivals, frequently recorded and performed as a separate piece (for example, by Kasarova/Florez and Florez/Domingo). Each tenor is given a full, uninterrupted entry, complete with numerous possibilities for high notes and copious amounts of coloratura. After a short move to the minor, the major tone returns in a long series of ornamented lines. The section certainly is exciting but there is a distinct lack of dramatic fire, only heightened by a rather jovial orchestral accompaniment and an absence of any kind vehemence on the part of the characters who could just as well be singing a patriotic hymn. Things get slightly better with a frightened arioso for Desdemona who throws herself between the men, provoking the suspension-over-time which finally brings a small gust of Rossinian inspiration: the central andante, opening with short sustained lines for the three protagonists, begins beautifully with a flowing, wave-like melody passed from voice to voice which is, however, cut short suddenly by a rather less-interesting a capella section, repeated twice. The finishing coda, coming almost too soon (indeed. the movement seems too brief for such a potentially climatic moment; "La donna del lago" also utilizes short andante passages throughout but the melodies are more concentrated and well-defined), though, reciprocates this loss somewhat. Curiously, during the terzet Rossini pairs the voices in a rather curious manner: it is Desdemona and Rodrigo who sing most lines together, as if they are lovers, while Otello acts as the low voice, though logically, and Rossini has done so splendidly in "La donna del lago", the scene seems to call to a more disjointed ensemble. The stretta is typically Rossinian: fast, agitated, featuring some nice crescendo effects (the two prolonged rises at 5:34 and 6:16). And, yet, it does not compare favorably, as does most of the scene, to the fine final section of the "La donna" terzet. The piece is, to be honest, written with the highest competence on Rossini's part, to say the least. The composer commits no true errors: horns blaze during the opening duettino, strings form an understated lament during the concentrato, the stretta booms with energy, vocal lines are handsomely developed. But, considering the fact that Rossini could do so much more, even in the confines of the present score, does seem to put something of a smudge on the piece...
Thankfully, this is one of those cases when talented performers are key to the number's success: Bruce Ford and Nelly Miricioiu return from the "La donna" piece and provide their usual excellence, while Kelly is replaced with another of Opera Rara's star tenors, William Matteuzzi, sounding in much better voice than in the company's subsequent recording of the complete score, gives a wonderful performance as the by turns sad and angry Rodrigo (some nasal tone notwithstanding). David Parry and the Philarmonia Orchestra also return to provide powerful support to their protagonists.
Hope you'll enjoy :).