Review: Otello, Opera North, Theatre Royal
COMPOSER Giuseppe Verdi was at the peak of his powers when he put Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello to music in the mid-1880s.
The result, Otello, was one of the great Italian operas but is also a major undertaking for any company wishing to bring it to the stage.
Leeds-based Opera North has grasped the nettle, 200 years on from Verdi’s birth, and its epic production does justice to this classic production.
At times, the scale is breathtaking, with the opening scene, for example, and the ambassador’s arrival in Act III, both featuring a packed stage, at times with more than 50 performers.
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In that tumultuous opener the sheer power of so many voices brings the violent storm which is battering Otello’s homeward-bound ship to musical life.
Sung in Italian with English subtitles, this was an opera full of passion and emotion which carried a feeling of gut-wrenching inevitability once wicked Iago began spinning his evil web.
David Kempster expertly took on the role of the villain with a performance of gusto which gave no hint of the ‘company cold’ he was suffering from.
Iago’s menace was enhanced greatly by superb lighting from designer Thomas C Hase, although there was no moment more gripping than when the commanding Ronald Samm, a definitive Otello for me, appeared in Desdemona’s bedroom at the end of Act IV.
With an expertly played score, this was theatrical tension at its peak.
Samm and the beautifully sung Desdemona (Elena Kelessidi) had set the scene for the huge tragedy to come with a beautiful duet at the end of Act I.
And a charming appearance by the children’s chorus, to shower Otello’s lover with gifts, brought a smile to the face.
Otello is on again on Saturday (7.30pm) with tickets ranging from £15 to £59. Call the box office on 0115 989 5555.