Opera San José's 2008-2009 Season
Der Zerbrochene Krug and Der Zwerg at LA Opera

Otello at LA Opera

Laotello* Notes *
A Los Angeles Opera co-production of Verdi's Otello with Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Teatro Regio di Parma opened yesterday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The production, directed by John Cox and designed by Johan Engels, involved three boxes, and thus instantly reminded me of the Macbeth lately at San Francisco Opera. Fortunately, no one was chained to any of the boxes, and they were not noisily shoved around. However, the set was a bit boring, despite how much activity took place, people moving in and out with furnishings. Otello is to knock over a bench at the end of Act II, presumably in anger, instead, the singer looked poised and ready to push the bench over at the right moment, because someone had asked him to. Generally the choreography seemed poorly motivated, except for the fight scene in Act I. The costumes included many turbans and leather coats, Emilia's costume was notably unflattering, her black outfit stuck out for no particular reason in Act II, when the chorus all wore light grey, beige, or white.

Cristina Gallardo-Domâs was unable to sing Desdemona because of an unspecified infection, and they flew in Elena Evseeva from New York yesterday morning to replace her. Evseeva sang well considering this, though she looked uncomfortable. She was a bit loud and off-balance with the other singers, her diction was poor, her voice cracked a few times, but she also had some celestial moments. In the title role, Ian Storey did not have the most impressive debut, though he did look heroic enough, and he was always audible. The higher part of his register sounds constrained and has too much vibrato, he had one particularly false note in Act II when he was singing to Iago (Mark Delavan). Delavan was the highlight of the evening and I am looking forward to hearing him as Wotan in San Francisco this summer. Some of his lower notes were not as resonant as they could be, perhaps, but for the most part his voice is strong and his dramatic sense quite sound. Next to Eric Halfvarson (Lodovico), Delavan's voice seems less heavy and booming, the contrast was effective. I found Ning Liang strangely shrill as Emilia, a sensation that rarely occurs for me in hearing mezzos. Tenor Derek Taylor (Cassio) sounded sweet, but was underpowered.

For the most part, James Conlon had a good handle on the orchestra, and they sounded more together than usual. The horns sounded off key in Act III.  There were problems synchronizing the singers with the orchestra, the chorus was off in Act I, and at points, the ensemble in Act III was complete chaos.

* Tattling *
The pre-opera interview of James Conlon was delayed, as he was speaking to Evseeva. Conlon gave a good overview of Verdi and his Shakespeare operas, and mentioned that nothing ever happened in Wagner's operas in comparison. The bells sounded before he could give a plug about
Recovered Voices, and he joked that we shouldn't go anywhere as the performance could not start without him.

Before the performance, a couple of men stepped over me to get to their seats, and they high-fived each other over their girlfriends. They spoke a bit too much during the music, though the three people between us did dampen the sound so they were easy to ignore. What was more difficult to block out was the person in either Y or X 1 of the Orchestra Ring who insisted on crumpling his or her plastic bag during the last two acts.