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Carlos Alvarez.- Iago

SONY CLASSICAL – OTELLO Jaunas Kaufmann DESDEMONA Federica Lombardi CONDUCTOR Antonio Pappano

Carlos Álvarez, who delivers arguably the finest track on the entire album with his “Credo in un dio crudel.” With studio recordings, there are often those moments when you are listening to something you have heard countless times before and you stop and rewind. Sometimes there is something that is off about the performance, but every so often there is something truly fascinating about what you just heard and have to hear again. It’s almost like you are discovering the piece once anew.

That is exactly what happens with the opening lines of the famed “Credo.” Alvarez, who to this point in the recording has delivered a rather elegant exploration of the character, suddenly turns up the intensity of his voice by widening the vibrato, his sound acquiring an edge and power that it had not had to that point. Iago sings a sequence of C naturals followed by D naturals, rising up to an E flat, Alvarez’s vibrato widening, almost becoming one with the underlying trills without any pitch instability; moreover, he delivers the opening phrase in one breath all the way to “Simile a se,” every single syllable clear but also swept up in a glorious legato. Just like that you have the devil wrapped up in a noble quality showing up precision and control in the most exciting of manners.

And coupled with the second half of the phrase, which climaxes with the baritone blasting everything he has on that final E flat on “Nomo,” this opening is so full of tension vocally and musically, that it becomes hard to top in the remainder of the aria (and recording for that matter). And yet somehow, he manages to find a way to do that.

Alvarez is constantly biting at the text throughout the “Credo,” creating menace, bitterness, and wry sarcasm throughout this emblematic text. All the high notes are delivered with assurance and poise, showing off his raw power. It’s almost like he’s at battle with every word and you can feel every blow he delivers with increasing strength. At the end, hhe feigns dread and anguish with each passing “E poi?,” until he victoriously erupts on the final “È vecchia fola il Ciel.”

He shows a similar finesse for exposing his malicious intent during “Temete, signor, la gelosia!” wherein his voice takes on very soft complexion, growing coarser and more accented with each passing phrase, climaxing in a very aggressive trill. You can feel the fangs coming out.

These passages are contrasted by a more elegant approach in other lines, Álvarez’s Iago coming off as noble and heroic as Kaufmann’s Otello. The entire drinking song “Inaffia l’ugola! Trinca, tracanna” is pulled off with bravura, climaxing in increasingly potent and thrilling high high As. Same goes for the trio, particularly in the flighty “Questa è una ragna,” where every syllable and note is spot on.

Conversely, “Era la notte” rivals Kaufmann and Lombardi’s most beautiful piano lines, the legato silky and polished. There’s a thrill in his slender piannissimo singing during ““Desdemona soave! Il nostro amor s’asconda.” The aria seems to build in volume with the mirroring ““Il rio destino impreco” sung with a more full-bodied sound; some of the edits detract from the performance, but ultimately, the aria is wonderfully crafted, allowing for a fantastic transition into the act’s final moments. You feel like Iago, with each phrase building in sound and strength is goading Otello toward his established destination, building the stakes more and more.

Álvarez is a veteran in this role and if you have followed his most recent recordings, there is an increasing sense of growth and development with regards to his interpretation of this role. The ideal recording (and that’s assuming you only get one) is that which crystallizes an artist’s most mature approach to a role. This is undeniably the case with Álvarez.


Carlos Álvarez, alcanza cotas insuperables y vuelve a impresionar por su Jago brillante, un personaje que sabe construir con todas sus aristas demoníacas transportadas a un canto simplemente insuperable, cargado de ironía, de cinismo y de maldad. Y si domina sin problemas las agilidades del brindis, en el Credo está absolutamente perfecto. Un Jago histórico.


…he (Verdi), like Shakespeare and everyone else, was much more interested in Iago. He sounds properly dangerous as sung by Carlos Álvarez – forceful but smooth, he’s as much in control as Otello is volatile, and he sings his nihilistic Credo with relish, the orchestra hurtling along with him until the mention of death brings a moment of pause to make your skin crawl.


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