Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why I Liked Iago; a review of Verdi's Otello Live-in-HD


in Don Giovanni, so maybe, Verdi indicated through tonal allusion, things are not as they seem.

But Struckmann committed another crime not necessarily written into the score. He stole the show.

Struckmann was able to stretch and shape vowels to make them sound evil. He had the complete repertoire of facial contortions used by any respectable metal singer. He could make sound that was chilly and that could cut through ensembles with authority. Yet, he also brought a vocal agility that made his music seem believable when he needed to befriend and become the confidant of any other character onstage. In this production, Iago was the focal point of all gravity.

Fleming was solid as Desdemona. Her solo scene in Act IV became Verdi inventing Strauss. She has developed both richness and complexity in this role. 

But her effectiveness was limited by Johan Botha as Otello. Part of the concept in both Otello and Othello is that one is supposed to wonder how Desdemona ended up with the moor. Otello should be an outsider, but not because he can't act. 

Host Sondra Radvanovsky announced that Botha was returning to the role after missing the last three performances. His voice held out and was not distracting, though it did not sound as strong and agile as on opening night. But the HD format was not kind to Botha. His range of expression is limited and he was never convincing. The entire third act collapsed on his acting in spite of engaging musicianship in "Dio! mi potevi scagliar." 

He was interviewed during the first intermission break. He had nothing. Radvanovsky asked him what makes the role of Otello such a challenge for a tenor. "I don't know. I don't think about it," said Botha, "I just do it and just enjoy singing it." Yeah, huh.

Fleming tried to help him, "It is so rangy and its so dramatic, and the combination of those two things is rare." And just like this exchange it seemed like Fleming was trying to help him get right onstage also. She couldn't. 

Minus Otello, this Otello would have upgraded.

1 comment:

  1. I saw the HD performance yesterday also & completely agree with you . HD makes it especially apparent when a performer ( Botha, in this case) does not seem invested in the full nature of the process ; he likes the singing...but could pass on the rest,acting,etc. It also made it very hard to imagine the romance & passion that was to have existed between Otello & Desdemona- he was so sweaty, immobile and seemingly out of contact with his colleagues, that it distracted from his vocal performance. Iago , on the other hand..whoosh! He just nailed it all 'round. I read other reviewws of Botha's performance in this role with Fleming ..recent and from several years ago- he does not seem to have progressed in investing in the totality of the role...sad.

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