Both performances, conducted by James Levine, will be released on the Met's own label. This event is possible today because of the Met's recent agreements with its unions that permit the commercial distribution of archive broadcasts.
"An evening of singing so glorious it will undoubtedly remain as a highlight in the memory of everyone there," the Associated Press said reviewing the performance in 1978. The great Canadian heldentenor Jon Vickers was dubbed by the New York Times reviewer as "the greatest Otello of the present day." Renata Scotto, one of the reigning Italian divas of the day, was singing Desdemona for only the second time at the Met. "She sounded as though Verdi had written Desdemona for her voice. She shaped her two Act 4 arias with a beauty seldom heard," said the AP. The Times said, "Mr. Levine conducted with energy and temperament. He has fully settled into Otello, and his interpretation had rhythmic drive, a good deal of poetry and a convincing shape to phrase and period." Cornell MacNeil sings the malevolent Iago, and the cast also includes Raymond Gibbs as Cassio and James Morris as Lodovico. The production is by Franco Zeffirelli with stage direction by Fabrizio Melano. Kirk Browning was the TV director.
In another 1978 telecast, Plšcido Domingo sang both Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and Canio in Pagliacci on the famed double bill for the first time at the Met. Though he had sung Turiddu at the Met earlier in his career, this was the first time New York audiences had heard his Canio. "Mr. Domingo unquestionably has one of the most beautiful and sturdy voices around," said the New York Times. Reviewing for the New York Post, Speight Jenkins said, "James Levine stressed the symphonic aspects of both works...in Pagliacci the tragedy became gripping and inevitable. Both intermezzos were exquisitely conceived and played." Tatiana Troyanos, who was known for the intensity of her portrayals "showed herself to be a strong and expressive lyric mezzo-soprano," according to the Post. In Pagliacci, renowned singing actress Teresa Stratas sings the role of Nedda and the powerful baritone Sherrill Milnes is Tonio. Together they "made for exciting theatrical and vocal drama" (the Post), in a performance "of unusual passionate conviction and rough-and-tumble physicality" (the Times). The production is also by Franco Zeffirelli, with stage direction by Fabrizio Melano, and TV direction by Kirk Browning.
Both performances were captured live in 1978 and have been restored using only the single live performance as no backup tapings were made at the time.
The DVDs will be available at the Met Opera Shop in the north lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House and online at www.metoperashop.org.