Wolfgang Windgassen was one of the great Wagnerian singers at Bayreuth. I'm both surprised and delighted to find this Otello done in German. Although it is a TV studio production I am also happy to report it is sung live and not lip-synched.
It is extremely well done, dramatic, and believable acting. It should not be one's first Otello, nor should it be one's first exposure to Wolfgang Windgassen. His voice is an acquired taste, and if one thinks it sounds old and dry, one had better consider retuning one's opinions. This is how he sounded all thru the 1950s to great critical acclaim, and the year following this production, at age 52, he made the great 1966 Bayreuth Tristan und Isolde with Birgit Nilsson, widely considered one of the greatest recordings of all time.
But yes, he has a very distinctive and unusual voice, a German voice, and makes this German-language recording of a Wagnerian-influenced opera sound even more German and Wagnerian than it ever was before. And yes, I have to say, it WORKS in German!
The production itself is in excellent B&W video and monaural sound. There are a couple of modern engineering issues that cause a lower rating than the 5 stars it would otherwise richly deserve. They are caused by carelessness, the kind of carelessness I think working people normally try to avoid if they wanted to keep their jobs, but it seems no one gives a hot you-know-what anymore.
One problem is that there's absolutely no break between Acts 2 and 3. There is a big climax at the end of Act 2, with crashing chords, which should be followed by fadeout and a few moments (say 5 or 10 seconds) of blank screen before the next act starts. But here you have the crashing chords, and without so much as an eyeblink, Act 3 begins. It really is annoying and destroys the mood.
Another problem is occasional idiotic English subtitles. If something is advertised as having English subtitles, I think it's reasonable to expect they were done by someone familiar with both the language, and the scenario. For example, in Act 3 we have the emotional scene of Otello angrily confronting his wife with the words (in Verdi's Italian), "Non sei forse una vil cortigiana?" (literally, "Are you not perhaps a vile courtesan", or in modern perlance, "Aren't you a cheap little whore?"). Now, what does this premium-priced DVD give us as a subtitle? "Are you not a lowly maiden?" No kidding--language respectfully used for the Virgin Mary! Later again he refers to her as a "common maiden", where the original Shakespeare is "strumpet". It means whore or prostitute--a far cry from "maiden".
These are key elements to the story, and yes, they do detract from concentration and enjoyment of the drama, and yes, I DO expect better from a company called "ArtHaus" which specializes in Opera DVDs.