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The Verdi bicentenary has been slow to catch fire, in the theatre as much as on CD, but these two recordings, taped at concert performances, suggest some amends are finally being made. In Muti’s impeccably schooled Chicago Otello, the orchestra is the star.

Aleksandrs Antonenko makes up in dramatic conviction what he lacks in tonal allure – and his top notes are thrilling. There have been sweeter interpreters of Desdemona on CD than Krassimira Stoyanova. Carlo Guelfi’s Iago is a let-down.

Muti uses the rarely performed revision of the Act Three finale that Verdi wrote for Paris seven years after the Milan premiere: it tightens the scene and gives Iago’s asides greater prominence.

Zanetti’s Vienna Boccanegra has Thomas Hampson’s idiosyncratic Doge, Carlo Colombara’s mannered Fiesco, Kristine Opolais’ exciting Amelia and Joseph Calleja’s exceptionally fine Gabriele Adorno – a decent cast by today’s standards, but no match for the classic Abbado set from Milan.

Verdi

Otello

Riccardo Muti/Chicago Symphony

(CSO Resound) 2 CDs

Verdi

Simon Boccanegra

Massimo Zanetti/Vienna Symphony

(Decca) 2 CDs

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