This production left me feeling that the parts were greater than the whole. A great production of "Otello" has the feel of one long sustained piece of music, as opposed to the more typical operatic structure of spoken or sung recitative broken up by arias and ensemble pieces. When "Otello" is done right, I must remind myself to breath because, from the moment the orchestra begins Act I with the dissonant crashing chord that ushers in the storm scene, the action moves "as one" to the tragic end. This production, though, has a choppy feel, not quite doing justice to Verdi's innovative, flowing style. And yet the individual performances (the "parts") are so compelling, that it still rates a strong four stars.
And so, to the "parts." Jose Cura's voice is sometimes strained, but his acting and commitment to the role are captivating. (I have the same comment about his portrayal of Manrico in "Il Trovatore" on DVD.) If you want the best sung Otello, stick to the three DVD's with Placido Domingo. But Cura brings a fierceness and passion to the role that makes for a riveting performance.
I had never heard of Krassimira Stoyanova who plays Desdemona. Although Act I is almost over before we hear her sing (in the sublime love duet "Gia nella notte densa") she is well worth waiting for. Her soprano voice flows with lyric beauty, yet is strong enough to carry the ensemble near the end of Act III when the great concertato follows Otello cruelly throwing her to the ground. Stoyanova's Act IV "Willow Song" and "Ave Maria" are as heartbreaking as they ought to be. You will be moved by her entire performance.
Lado Ataneli possesses a wonderfully full and burnished baritone voice. Iago can be interpreted in different ways. Ataneli chooses to focus on the personal rather than on the political; he convincingly portrays Iago as Otello's false friend and confidante, thus making Iago's actions all the more chilling and deplorable.
If you're looking to purchase only one "Otello" on DVD, I would recommend one of the three productions starring Domingo; my favorite is The Met from 1995 with Renee Fleming as Desdemona and James Morris as Iago. (I've written a separate Amazon review of that production which compares it to the other two DVD's of Domingo in the title role.) Domingo's interpretation of Otello is profound; he explores every nuance of this brave but ultimately pathetic warrior. But this Liceu production from Barcelona is well-worth owning and is sufficiently different in concept, stage design, and performances from the three Domingo DVD's that you won't feel you have a duplicate of this great opera in your collection.