“Otello” is a magnificently dark production lifted from the pages of a Shakespearean tragedy and transformed into an opera every bit as paranoid, edgy and atmospheric by master of darkness Giuseppe Verdi.
As the orchestral score is so brooding and intense right from the opening, Verdi has the edge on Shakespeare for setting the mood before any action even commences. Those dark, mysterious notes of foreboding penetrate every fibre of your soul.
If you are resistant to feeling in a playhouse, there is no escape in an opera. Verdi will make you experience the characters’ emotions; always dark, full of the sinister, the jealous and the suspicious. The foundations of the story itself rest on a cracking, splintering iceberg of paranoia and unease.
In much the same way as “Macbeth” and “Rigoletto”, the orchestral score is richly dense and dramatic, speaking so much of murderous hatred, envy and paranoia as well as deep sadness from Desdemona. It is a score that crackles with tension through to the finale, like a complex and intense narrator of events, led by conductor Gergely Madaras.
Verdi omitted very little of Shakespeare’s work. Only the first act is cut, which leaves the tenor in the role of Otello with a lot of work to do; we need explanations as to why he is behaving like a raging animal, paranoid and angry. As well as a dramatic vocal role, it asks a lot of its lead tenor in terms of acting. American star Marc Heller takes on this challenging role of the Venetian Moor.
Desdemona is a fiercely demanding role not least because of the sheer amount of time she is on the stage, forever full of longing, sadness and devotion to her Otello.
Desdemona could all too easily become a helpless victim but she has a grace, a nobility in her self-sacrificing devotion. Passionately talented Andrea Rost has played an array of roles across the globe, from Puccini’s leading ladies to the intense Marguerite in “Faust”, as well as Violetta in “La Traviata”, many of these at world-class venues such as La Scala. Her Desdemona is full of vulnerability yet strength, and Rost’s elegant and versatile soprano voice is spellbinding in its beauty, able to captivate the audience of Margitsziget.
The success of “Otello” as an overall production rests entirely on the leading trio of performers; not just on Otello and Desdemona but on the third performer with an equally challenging role: Iago performed by Mihály Kálmándy.
Iago is very much a part of this triangle. He needs to be portrayed as truly evil, jealous, manipulative and devilish, all richly spun baritone notes woven like wickedly seductive silk. He is the twisted catalyst in this story, the chief manipulator of events.
Added to this are Attila Csikós’ dramatic set designs and the direction of László Vámos. After its immense success in the Opera House this year, “Otello” has its final showing on the Open Air stage before being laid to rest. It is a fitting exit for a dark and powerful opera that could only be equalled by a performance on the floating stage of Bregenz against a sullen sky split by lightning.
Friday July 29 and Sunday July 31 at 8pm
Festival tickets and information:
Open Air ticket office:
Nagymező utca 68, District VI