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Best opera ever? Gerald Finley chooses Verdi's Otello

Editorial Staff

Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 p.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.

Best Operas Ever No. 2 - Gerald Finley

Ben Heppner talks to the Canadian baritone Gerald Finley about his favourite opera recording: James Levine's classic interpretation of Verdi's Otello


Gerald Finley isn't just a top-tier opera singer; he's also a top-tier opera geek. The renowned Canadian baritone is the sort of musician who, when he really loves a piece, will dive deep. So when he says that James Levine's 1978 recording of Verdi's Otello — featuring Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Renata Scotto — is the best ever, that's an opinion with some real weight. Plus, Finley is a spectacular Verdi interpreter himself. Here's evidence:

Finley first encountered this recording of Otello when he was an aspiring singer, just starting to wonder if he might be able to hack it in this business. He heard Domingo and Milnes singing the famous duet from the end of Act 2 on the radio.

"I thought wow, if that's what the human voice can do ... I've got to get this album." He bought it while studying singing in England. "I practically wore out the needle of my turntable, and certainly wore out the record."

In this instalment of Best Operas Ever, Finley tells Ben Heppner about how this recording encouraged him to scale the operatic heights. They discuss the brilliance of Sherrill Milnes's sinister Jago (a role that Finley has sung and recorded), and Ben reflects on singing the role of Otello in the long shadow of the great Plácido Domingo. Hit the play button above to hear his full interview with Finley, and tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Sept. 17 to hear more from this conversation, plus James Levine's 1978 recording of Otello in its entirety.

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