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'Otello's' Bad Direction

October 19, 1986

Regarding director Franco Zeffirelli's passionate defense of his most recent opus (Calendar Letters, Oct. 12): I am a musician. I also happen to love film. And I far from loved "Otello."

In his review Sept. 19, music critic Martin Bernheimer justifiably cited many of the film's musical flaws. I should like to address myself to what I regard as some serious lapses of directorial taste that frequently reduced "Otello" to the level of grade-B cinema, or worse, to the obviousness of most TV movies:

The regulation of singers' voices to an echo-chamber during flashbacks, to dispel any doubt that the accompanying scene was a memory.

Those beefcake shots of the sleeping Cassio--not particularly artful or sensuous, merely vulgar.

Zeffirelli's emasculation of one of Verdi's glorious ensembles (Otello-Desdemona-Iago-Emilia, Act 2). The thrill of such moments is seeing , as well as hearing, several independent threads of thought expressed and woven together to one seamless fabric.

And, yes, the heartless excision of the "Willow Song," which directors have staged without loss of dramatic momentum for nearly a century. One would think only a lesser figure than Zeffirelli would be daunted by the task.



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