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Othello (Ballet)
Composed by:
Elliot Goldenthal

Conducted by:
Emil de Cou

Performed by:
San Francisco Ballet Orchestra

Produced by:
Joel Iwataki

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
June 2nd, 1998

Also See:

Audio Clips:
2. Entrada (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

8. Iago and Emilia (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

10. Tarantella (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

13. Adagietto and Coda Agitato (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release, but out of print as of 2007.


Othello (Ballet)

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Buy it... if you want to hear Elliot Goldenthal's postmodern orchestral tendencies brutally expressed, uninhibited by the scene changes or dialogue that would guide a film score.

Avoid it... if Goldenthal's usual style of challenging dissonance and atonality bother you to any minor degree in his film scores.

Othello (Ballet): (Elliot Goldenthal) Many casual film music enthusiasts were unaware that there is a reason for Elliot Goldenthal's rather sparse ten-year career in film score composition during the 1990's. The lack of a prolific scoring career has been due largely to an equally active career for commissioned projects such as concerts, chamber pieces, and ballets, with these venues dominating the composer's efforts of the 2000's. The mid-1990's were years that featured several large-scale commissioned works from Goldenthal, too, and the huge symphonic piece "Fire Water Paper" in 1996 led to a handful of projects directed by his wife, Julie Taymor. His theatrical writings also achieved recognition by the Tony awards for "Juan Darien," and his small arthouse scores have been performed during plays around the country. His chamber pieces, written usually for a specific occasion, have been performed in countless venues as well. While many of these concert works existed on album during the time of the composer's most prolific soundtrack output due a contract between Goldenthal and the Sony Classical label, his work for the "Othello" ballet in 1998 was released on album by Varèse Sarabande at the time of its opening. Writing for the San Francisco Ballet's own orchestra and recording the accompaniment in one of the nation's premiere symphony halls, "Othello" was a monumental undertaking for Goldenthal and the producing American Ballet Theatre. The famous Shakespearian story of Othello is arguably one of the most intriguing tragedies in modern times, and in a three-year span alone, there were three modern musical adaptations of the Othello story. Along with Goldenthal's ballet score in 1998, a feature 1995 film scored by Charlie Mole and a delayed 1998 interpretation by Jeff Danna would draw up polarizing, dark orchestral visions of the same tale (with Mole's work featuring a stunning end title cue). The three scores couldn't be more different in style, but the basic emotions of revenge, lust, and deceit all remain intact as a necessity. Goldenthal in particular was strongly inclined towards the unpleasant nature of brooding avant garde music at the time, so "Othello" was a natural project for his sensibilities to tackle more than any other.

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The "Othello" score by Goldenthal received another burst of attention in 2003 because of the original ballet performance's release on DVD. It's important to remember, especially for Goldenthal collectors, that "Othello" is a ballet and not a film score. Because of that fact, the composer was required to provide all of the aural ambience for the production, speaking as the sole voice and serving as the only rhythmic device for the dancing on stage. As expected, then, his music for "Othello" is painfully laborious, with complicated passages at every turn. Goldenthal takes his understanding of difficult, dark emotions to the most perplexing level, allowing his dissonant, frenetic music to flow uninhibited by scene changes or dialogue. As the emotional outlet for the dancers, the music is extremely heavy handed, pounding the listener with its atonal vastness. To say that "Othello" has themes for its characters is true, but the individuality of each character is expressed more through the pace and brutality of the orchestra rather than traditional, melodic lines. In these regards, the emotions of the story are brilliantly conceived by Goldenthal. This man knows his tragedies. But, at the same time, the romance, the allure, and the agony are all lost in Goldenthal's stretch for postmodern energy and creativity. He captures the essence of Iago but failed to truly convey the love between Othello and Desdemona. Still, the sheer mass of sound is breathtaking, and it overwhelms with a blunt edge that could easily provide a lengthy headache for a listener not soothed by the sight of the dancing. Appreciating the complexity of the piece, it's easy to understand why the concurrent score for Sphere was so underachieving. Goldenthal's ballet is written with the same classically eccentric, but brilliant fashion with which he writes his liner notes. And yet, it's not always listenable, ranging from fascinating in structure to unbearable in its ear-shattering ramblings. There are snippets of Bernard Herrmann to be heard around every corner, but Goldenthal is always attempting to take that sound a step further, sometimes succeeding brilliantly and sometimes creating a soundscape too challenging to tolerate. "Othello" will exist somewhere on that scale for many film score listeners. To be conservative, it's an album that can only be really recommended to those who are accustomed to Goldenthal's postmodern style and can digest it in all its forms. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Elliot Goldenthal reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.07 (in 15,600 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.13 Stars
Smart Average: 3.09 Stars*
***** 36 
**** 35 
*** 39 
** 30 
* 27 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   I love Goldenthal, just not this
  Saul Blume -- 11/16/05 (8:19 a.m.)
   Re: Give the reviewer some credit
  JS Park -- 6/17/04 (9:41 a.m.)
   Re: Give the reviewer some credit
  JS Park -- 6/15/04 (10:30 a.m.)
   Another Goldenthal masterpiece!
  Fernando Giménez Moren... -- 3/4/04 (5:34 a.m.)
   As good as Stravisnky or Bartok *NM*
  Diego -- 12/6/03 (8:18 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 71:11

Act I:
• 1. Sarabande (3:12)
• 2. Entrada (2:24)
• 3. Carnival Dance (2:09)
• 4. Cassio (2:36)
• 5. Formal Court Dance (5:09)
• 6. Othello and Desdemona (6:08)
• 7. Zigzag Dance (1:47)
• 8. Iago and Emilia (5:06)

Act II:
• 9. Storm and Ship's Arrival (8:51)
• 10. Tarantella (14:12)

Act III:
• 11. Lies and Variations (7:44)
(Lies and Variations/Iago and Othello/Othello's Solo Dance)
• 12. Desdemona's Prayer (5:25)
• 13. Adagietto and Coda Agitato (6:25)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes information about each section of the ballet, as well as notes regarding Goldenthal's varied career.

  All artwork and sound clips from Othello (Ballet) are Copyright © 1998, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/13/03 and last updated 3/27/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.