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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Opera - Otello - Opera North at The Lowry

Star rating - 8/10

Otello is a simple and tragic story with themes as old as the hills, but still just as relevant in this week of the Huhne/Pryce saga - so jealousy gets you nowhere; revenge doesn't pay; and the lust for power can lead to terrible consequences. Adapted from the Shakespeare play, and featuring beautiful, luscious music as you would expect from Verdi. Although it has little in the way of particularly famous pieces, it was played as usual to an exemplary standard by the Opera North orchestra. (Great trumpet playing Jim!) I found the performance to be slightly muted in first half (apart from a beautiful duet between Otello and Desdemona to express their love for each other) but absolutely stunning and sublime after the interval as it swings between devotion and despair; rage and regret.

It features great leads in Ronald Samm as an Otello with a huge vocal and physical presence, and Elena Kelessidi  as his loving but wrongfully accused wife Desdemona - it was announced beforehand that both had sore throats but wanted to go on, and apart from a slight waver at one point, you really wouldn't have known. So what I read in the newspapers about the current generation of opera singers being a bit flaky in terms of illness and willingness to let the show go on certainly did not apply here. Also David Kempster was fabulous as Iago, the evil schemer whose jealousy and envy of his boss's power and happiness lead to the terrible denouement, as he plants the seeds of jealousy and destruction in Otello's mind. The racial element of the story in the treatment of Otello as 'The Moor' takes a back seat in this production.

The only criticisms from me would be the set and staging - the set was not up to usual Opera North standards, and gave a strange feeling of being back stage for a lot of the time due to the unfinished feel it had. And although tt was set in a US naval base in WW2, the theme did not completely run through the piece with absolute success. However, apart from these quibbles, it was wonderful, and it passed the true litmus test of opera - I took along a friend who had never seen any opera before and he loved it. Nothing more to say then!

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