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Otello's Power Rages

May 07, 2010

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    May 07, 2010
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    Opera Carolina News

Otello's Power Rages

Verdi certainly had a tall order in adapting Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Othello. One can only imagine being handed a theatrical masterpiece and instructed to improve upon it. The obverse of that paradigm however is that the composer had tremendous source material to work with and was bound to create a moving production. It turns out; he did exactly that, creating one of the most venerated adaptations of the Bard’s work for the Operatic stage.

The second of Shakespeare’s works Verdi scored (the first being Macbeth), the Italian found much to his liking in the jealousy and revenge filled plot that makes for grandiose staging and even greater librettos comprising this stout work, one with a continuous musical flow. It is the latter attribute which today’s casual Opera goers may find disconcerting as there is no celebrated individual pieces that are easily recognized and isolated to leave theater goers humming as they leave. Casting this aside however Otello patrons will note a distinctive style and arguably some of the composer’s most melodic and moving work.

Last night, Opera Carolina goers were fortunate indeed to be treated to the performance of Carl Tanner fresh from his impressive OC debut this past March in Carmen as Don Jose. Tanner takes over where he left off in March dominating the stage with his presence in the eponymous role of Othello. Rich and buttery, the trucker-turned-tenor was born for this role which he embraces with all the power and gusto of the hanky-crazed jealous warrior himself.

Tanner is complimented well by an ensemble cast as strong as any including; Sandra Lopez as Othello’s bride Desdemona, Jason Howard as Iago, Jason Karn as Cassio and Martha Bartz as Emilia.

Opera Carolina’s staging continues to be resplendent and, given the abbreviated two date only run, impressive in its accurate Moorish detail. The opening storm in the sea scene was a show stopper from the beginning and once again OC's chorus is unified, controlled and used impressively to set not only the mood, but frame the accompanying librettos with solid support.

Lopez's opening in her bed chamber in act four was filled with emotion and allowed for the full beauty of her voice to waft out amongst the audience and ultimately shock the crowd with her dramatic farewell to her pal Emilia.

Howard lends the right dose of deviousness to Iago, plotting, scheming and orchestrating the twisted seed of doubt in Otello while at the same time duping the oft promoted Cassio. Howard's baritone stands as a literal foil to the flawed protagonist Othello. He effortlessly wields it like a sword; with heft, deft and danger.

Director/conductor James Meena gets the most from his orchestra, alternating between thundering power and subtle restraint, providing grand accompaniment for a splendid evening of Verdi at his finest.

Otello vs. Othello?
In Italian, the ‘th’ sound does not exist, so it is dropped it from the title – Othello becomes Otello.

By Michael J. Solender

To read the original article, visit Michael's J. Solender's blog, NOT FROM HERE, ARE YOU?..