Saturday, March 23

Domingo, Anderson blazing in ‘Otello’


Domingo, Anderson blazing in ‘Otello’

Los Angeles Opera triumphant with Verdi’s creation

By John Mangum

Daily Bruin Staff

When the world’s greatest tenor teams up with one of its most
renowned sopranos, they should burn up the stage.

Placido Domingo and June Anderson did exactly this Saturday
evening, tackling Giuseppi Verdi’s masterpiece "Otello."

The spectators at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion basked in the
Los Angeles Music Center Opera’s combustible production, enjoying a
wholly satisfying operatic experience.

And what better work for a triumph than "Otello?" One of the
greatest operas, composed by Verdi over the course of seven and a
half years between 1879 and 1887, could hardly fail to impress.

By the time he tackled this work, Verdi’s musical language had
matured, producing a continuous dramatic sweep and encompassing his
melodic style within a richer harmonic context. The opera, drawn
from Shakespeare by the composer and his librettist Arrigo Boito,
contains a rich array of characters who act out their tragedy in
exotic Cyprus.

The story thrusts the viewer into the midst of Otello’s marriage
to Desdemona, which the reprehensible Iago wants to destroy. Iago,
driven only by evil, preys on Otello, forcing him to condemn
Desdemona out of pride and kill her.

Placido Domingo assumed the role of Otello on this occasion,
singing as though it were tailor-made for him. After this, it is
difficult to doubt the claims that he is the world’s greatest
Otello.

Soprano June Anderson matched his accomplishment, portraying
Desdemona for the first time Saturday evening. She sang
beautifully, bringing her experience gained on the world’s most
famous opera stages to the role.

When the two were on stage together, the energy between them was
absolutely riveting. Verdi himself could not have asked for
more.

Baritone Gregory Yurisich certainly achieved success vocally in
the role of Iago, but his portrayal disappointed dramatically. He
just wasn’t evil enough to be the man who single-handedly destroys
the noble Otello.

For example, Iago’s chilling Act Two credo can be a snarling
down-and-dirty proclamation of unalloyed evil. In Yurisich’s hands,
the singing went excellently, but the few attempts at wickedness,
such as letting the sand from an hourglass run through his fingers,
seemed contrived.

Fortunately, little else did. L.A. Opera’s production conveyed
the taut dramatic construction of each act flawlessly and with
great effect, something made apparent from the very outset. The
opera opens with a storm, and that is just what the audience
got.

Fog enveloped the stage and lights flashed to imitate lightning,
illuminating members of the chorus meant to be citizens of Cyprus
in sharply etched freeze-frames.

Between lightning flashes, the entire hall became almost
completely dark, leaving the images of the chorus members at
nature’s mercy burned in the mind.

The L.A. Opera Chorus and Children’s Chorus packed scenes such
as this with overwhelming large scale drama, and they sounded
great. The L.A. Chamber Orchestra, led by the company’s resident
conductor Randall Behr, nearly matched them, only intermittently
sounding undercharacterized.

Proceedings on stage were expertly handled by Stage Director
Christopher Harlan. The UCLA graduate showed his skill in the
complicated portion of Act Three when Iago convinces Otello that
Desdemona has been unfaithful with Cassio.

Saturday night’s performance, with accomplished singing and
playing, striking sets and polished stage direction, was
magnificent. The team of Anderson and Domingo started a fire that
memory will not soon extinguish.

OPERA: L.A. Opera presents Verdi’s "Otello" at the Dorothy
Chandler Pavilion May 6 at 7 p.m., May 9, 12, 15, 18 and 23 at 8
p.m., May 20 at 1 p.m. Russian tenor Vladimir Bogachov replaces
Domingo May 20 and 23. TIX: $21 to $115, $10 for students. For more
info call (213) 972-8001.

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