Fathom Events' Met Opera's "Otello": Venetian Blind with Jealousy

Sonya Yoncheva, Aleksandrs Antonenko & Cast of the Met Opera's "Otello"
(photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

The Metropolitan Opera opened the current season last month with its new production of Verdi's “Otello”, perhaps the most successful and revered operatic adaptation of a play by Shakespeare. The libretto by Boito is one of the primary reasons for its acceptance and endurance, as he kept the central story very close to Shakespeare's tale, although omitting and condensing some characters. Consisting of Verdi's more mature and complex orchestrations, it remains one of the finest works in all of opera, with one of opera's clearest and most credible stories. Initially, the decision not to utilize dark makeup for the role of the Moorish Otello for this production evoked some controversy, but in these days of nontraditional casting, in the end it was easily forgotten, despite some early pleas: “please sir, may we have some Moor?”.

Otello (tenor Alexsandrs Antonenko), the “Lion of Venice”, arrives home from a triumphant win over the turkish army, only to be met with not very veiled suspicions spread by his ensign Iago (baritone Željko Lučić) about Otello's wife Desdemona (soprano Sonya Yoncheva). Iago tells the young Roderigo (tenor Chad Shelton), who has fallen in love with Desdemona, that he will help him win her, meanwhile managing to get Otello's newly-promoted officer Cassio (tenor Dimitri Pittas) drunk and into a fight with the former governor Montano (baritone Jeff Mattsey). This leads to Otello's withdrawal of Cassio's promotion. Iago gets Desdemona to intercede on behalf of Cassio, making Otello more suspicious and jealous, and steals her handkerchief that her maid Emilia (mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano) has retrieved, planting it in Cassio's room. At last Iago has his twisted revenge as Otello strangles his (innocent) wife, then stabs himself, as the crowd (including bass Gũnther Groissbőck as Lodovico and baritone Tyler Duncan as a Herald) enters. Otello seeks one last kiss and dies.

In this production (updated to the late nineteenth century), as with most performances, its impact depended greatly on both excellent singing and acting, both heightened of course in an HD Live Broadcast. This cast provided both. Antonenko and Luĉić were magnificent in solos and duets, and Yoncheva was poignant and heartbreaking. The Metropolitan Opera Chorus (once again under the direction of Chorusmaster Donald Palumbo) gave a wonderful performance (but inexplicably got no curtain call). The HD Host for the broadcast was Eric Owens, who was excellent and had done his homework for the intermission interviews, when Bartlett Sher (whose production this was) mentioned that they decided to use glass sets when it was noted that Boito stated that he and Verdi had created “glass cages” for their characters to inhabit. The Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin was terrific, energetic and involved. Sher's production was great, and very ably Directed for Live Cinema by Gary Halvarson, with Set Design (the transparent panels were perfect for plotting) by Es Devlin, somber Costume Design by Catherine Zuber (all harmoniously created to enhance the complex political intrigues), even more somber Lighting Design by Donald Holder and superb Projection Design by Luke Halls (especially the storm scene in the first act).

Overall, this was a very moving and memorable revisit to the operatic dramatic shores of the Mediterranean, yet another example of how ubiquitous the presence of the Metropolitan Opera has become. The last outing, of the company's “Trovatore”, was in fact number eleven on the box office list of grosses in the current issue of Variety. The HD Live Broadcast series has proven to be more popular than ever.

Encore presentation of "Otello" to be broadcast Weds. Oct. 21 at 6:30pm at participating theaters.

No comments:

Post a Comment