Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Smothering Otello (Otello/Met)

Verdi, Otello (Yannick Nézet-Séguin cond. Orchestra of the Met)
It might be churlish to sneer at Es Devlin’s production of Otello for the Met, relayed by satellite on Saturday. However there were three problems with it which impaired the emotional impact. Firstly, in its deconstructed classical architecture, it looked very much like her production of Don Giovanni which was revived at Covent Garden in the summer. Secondly, the seascapes, projected almost inevitability on to a gauze screen, were tacky and really did make one slightly sea-sick. Thirdly, the bright lights with which the transparent boxes were filled were generally distracting, at least in the first half. As the intensity of the drama picked up in Acts III and IV ,it became less distracting, probably because we were drawn in to things.

Otello is one of the very darkest operas, and its intensity – when done well-  is such that it can be deeply disturbing. The victorious general so quickly falls victim to his own jealousy and doubt with harrowing consequences. Yannick and co. offered a respectable account of the score, but it lacked the orchestral power necessary to uncover that real abyss (in contrast this is found in spades in the recording Chicago Symphony Orchestra released last year conducted by Riccardo Muti). The trio at the centre: Iago, Desdemona and Otello were fine indeed. Desdemona was more than a woman scorned, and Iago. However well Alesksandrs sang the part, somehow the acting didn’t quite come off. Aleksandrs certainly has the ability (having sung the part in the CSO recording), so I wonder if the production was at fault.
A huge problem was Es Devlin’s derivative, tacky and dull production. It served to neuter what might have been a horrifying evening. A really fine Otello leaps into the abyss before looking back at the audience. It is a deeply sobering experience. This didn't quite manage it.
 Overall: lacked killer instinct as a silly production smothered good singing and music.
Cast and creatives
Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Production: Bartlett Sher
Set designer: Es Devlin
Costume designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting designer: Donald Holder
Projection designer: Luke Halls
Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Montano: Jeff Mattsey
Cassio: Dimitri Pittas
Iago: Željko Lučić
Roderigo: Chad Shelton
Otello: Aleksandrs Antonenko
Desdemona: Sonya Yoncheva
Emilia: Jennifer Johnson Cano
A herald: Tyler Duncan
Lodovico: Günther Groissböck

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