Thursday, September 24, 2015

The exploiter

Otello - Metropolitan Opera, 9/21/2015
Antonenko, Yoncheva, Lučić, Pittas / Nézet-Séguin

My guess before opening night wasn't far off: everyone pretty good, only Lucic really better than that among the singers, in a production that does a lot of what the previous one did but in Gelb's house aesthetic.

Antonenko has the right (big) physical presence for the part and warmed up nicely for the latter acts, but the first act really demands more ease with high notes than he has. (The brighter instrument of Botha really worked there.) Yoncheva is lovely and hit all her musical/dramatic cues, but is a trifle cool to really triumph in the last acts.

Sher's production, too, is good enough and without any huge flaws. The fluid scene changes from Es Devlin's moving set elements are nice, though when the bed first appears (Act 2, I think?) it's not secured to the ground - Antonenko almost rolled it around when he sat down in a daze. The clean-but-busy physical spectacle highlights Iago's role as a rather impressive plotter, which suits Lucic well. In the program-book piece, Sher talks about incorporating Ibsen and the conflict between "the old, Christian way against the newer, scientific way of thinking"... and it's Iago who represents the latter. Unburdened by moral scruples or categories, he's able to see how some relatively innocuous deceptions can be strung together into a massive system failure. So one expects him to be cool and fluent and mellifluous in company, which Lucic (the best voice of the group) is, and more nihilistic than purely enraged even in his private hatred, which certainly suits Lucic's temperament.

The odd projection before Act III seemed pointless, but wasn't harmful, while borrowing Carsen's letter scene setup for Act IV was actually a really good idea. Nezet-Seguin guided the ebb and flow and climaxes of the score very well. Let's come back to this with an outstanding Otello or Desdemona.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.