Keith Warner's 2017 production, making a welcome return to the Royal Opera House, straddles Elizabethan, Jacobean and indeterminate times, with the help of splendid costumes by Kaspar Glarner, while Boris Kudlička's design of pierced panels calls to mind Moorish tracery, stained glass leading and the conspiratorial niches of ancient castles.
Warner understands that the world is not singular, but shot through with and enriched by different cultures, and that jealousy rears up at any time, everywhere.
Otello has all the key elements of the play. Otello returns from the wars to a grateful Venice and to adoring Desdemona, whom he has secretly married. But their union is soon blighted by Otello's right-hand man, Iago, who confects suspicions and arouses Otello's jealousy. When Iago convinces him by suggestion that Desdemona is unfaithful, Otello loses the self-control that has carried him through many dangers before.
Soprano Ermonela Jaho sings the role of Desdemona
Otello is sung by the magnificent Verdian tenor Gregory Kunde, with Ermonela Jaho as Desdemona. Jaho has proved to rapturous audiences at Covent Garden, as Violetta in La Traviata and in the title role of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, her gift for portraying a woman crushed. This is sure to be a heart-breaking performance.
The polarities of the piece are pointed up with relish: Iago's nasty manifesto versus Desdemona's prayer; proud Desdemona watching the return of Otello from a high vantage point versus Otello spying down on her from above.
Royal Opera House music director Sir Antonio Pappano is masterly in his conducting of this great Italian score.
Otello is Verdi's penultimate opera. It had a triumphant premiere in 1887 at La Scala, Milan, and Verdi and his librettist Arrigo Boito went on to collaborate on the composer's final operatic masterpiece, Falstaff.
Listen out in Otello for the Act I love duet, Iago’s hollow ‘Credo’, the grand Act III finale, and Desdemona's last faltering song, pierced with foreboding.
Otello is sung in Italian with English surtitles. Performances are on 89, 13, 16, 19 Dec at 7:30PM, and on 22 Dec at 3PM. Booking opens 9AM, Thurs 24 Oct.
|What||Otello, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
09 Dec 19 – 22 Dec 19, four performances at 7:30PM, one at 3PM