Opening of Otello at SF Opera
November 08, 2009
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's last production of the year, Otello, opened this afternoon. Maestro Luisotti had the orchestra sounding richly fluent. The English horn, bassoon, and bass were particularly lovely. The brass instruments also had some good moments, though when they all played together there sometimes was a buzzing quality to the sound. The chorus sounded cohesive and forceful.
The production is perhaps deceptively simple, with a serviceable, three-tiered set designed by John Gunter. Various elements were employed to artfully transform the space as necessary, including Duane Schuler's lighting, not to mention the use of fire. It was a shame that much of the set was obscured if one happened to be too far back in the balcony.
Renée Tatum was a sympathetic Emilia, she was wonderful in the last act, her voice filled with anger and despair. Beau Gibson (Cassio) was plaintive, but his higher register was slightly quiet and strained. Marco Vratogna was brutish as Iago, at times growling. He could also be sickeningly sycophantic, in short, a fine villain. Vratogna was overwhelmed by the orchestra a few times, and was not as powerful as Eric Halfvarson (Lodovico). Zvetelina Vassileva's Desdemona was agreeable enough, though perhaps it would have been nicer had she not pulled at the back of her gown whilst her back was to the audience in Act III. She did sound very pretty in the last act, and tragic as well. Johan Botha proved to have the ability to sound sweet, especially in the duet with Vassileva that ends the first act. He has a couple of notes in the top of his tessitura that do not have the ease of the rest of his voice. However, he does have a great deal of volume that he is able to control quite beautifully.
* Tattling *
The audience was middling, we had a rough start in which someone's watch alarm just kept going off in Acts I and II. There was the loud sound of velcro being unfastened. There was tittering when the supertitles read "Acts 3 & 4" rather than the translation of the text being sung. Worst of all was the light applause after Desdemona went to bed, the clapping muffled the sound of the bass.