Saturday, 9 March 2013

Otello at the Grand Opera House

Opera North ran three operas this week at the Grand Opera House. 2013 is Giuseppe Verde's anniversary year and Opera North are celebrating with their production of Otello.  For the first time, I actually had company for the opera, and it was lovely. 

The opera is based on Shakespeare's great tragedy Othello, a story of malice, jealousy, torment and madness. The tragedy of the story is breathtaking and this production certainly broke a few hearts.  With half price tickets available as part of the Backin Belfast campaign,  the theatre was full of people who had not attended an opera before, the cheaper seats providing a less risky night out.  This did mean though that there was quite a bit of annoying whispering and people eating popcorn. 

I enjoyed the performances immensely, the lead playing his part with just enough frantic jealousy.  The scenes of violence within the piece were well choreographed and I truly feared that Elena Kelessidi as Desdemona would get hurt as Otello pushed her around.   Otello's entrance to the bedroom in Act 4 was terrifying and the tension was built up beautifully by some very good acting though it seemed at times that Ronald Swann was having to push his voice.

Kelessidi's voice grated a little at the start but the vulnerability with which she played the part was palpable.  Her pleading innocence in the prayer scene in particular brought a tear to the eye.
As for evil Iago, his manipulation of events was played by David Kempster with callous intent, the performer clearly enjoying his dual personality.  

Despite lacking a bit of energy in the opening scene, the chorus was generally very strong, and passionate.   As always the orchestra, conducted by Richard Farnes, blew me away.

Depicted in a garrison, the set was cold and menacing reflecting perhaps Otello's descent into mad jealousy and was put to good use.  There were plenty of places for Otello to hide and listen to conversations without being seen.  Lighting wise, I thought it a bit predictable and would have liked to have seen the lighting used more creatively. 

The surtitle screens were a bit low down to be read from the Upper Circle, I but found that I barely needed them.  Despite being sung in Italian, my knowledge of the story and the performers' expression kept me on course the whole way through.

Overall, a great night out.  I only wish the Backin Belfast discount was available all the time, to allow more people to see such amazing productions.

My love affair with opera continues...



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