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National Opera House, Bucharest

Otello
1.0Reviewer's Rating

A new production of Verdi’s Otello, directed by Giancarlo del Monaco, opens the new season at the National Opera House in Bucharest. The setting is minimalist. The stage is almost empty, apart from three grey panels, one of which has an added touch of gold paint. The costume, designed by Stella del Monaco, the granddaughter of the great tenor Mario del Monaco, is a curious mixture of long robes in different colours. Lighting designed by the director clearly enhances the plot in an intriguing way. For example, there is a scene when Iago is totally covered by Cassio’s long shadow, suggesting evil is hidden, covered by an unknowing, innocent soul. Another beautiful moment, offering a rare point of the physical action, is the fight between Cassio and Montano, which takes place during the first act; tenor Andrei Lazăr and bass Filip Panait display a great athletic and exciting performance. Love is blind, they say, but with Otello the phrase bears new meaning: the force driving the action is, of course, Iago, but his scheming is based on the Moor’s extreme jealousy and personal insecurities; making use of this symbolic image Iago places a long black scarf onto Otello’s eyes (even wrapping him in it later on) and at the end the same scarf is used to kill Desdemona.

Giancarlo del Monaco chooses to focus on the intensity of the characters and the drama itself, and it is true that the original play, the libretto and the music are very strong and well crafted; still, the problem with an almost empty stage is that you need great voices and at least some movement to fill in a certain void.

Baritone Ionuţ Pascu gives a splendid rendition of Iago, extracting the intelligent and subtle qualities of this evil character, while baritone Ştefan Ignat (who sang on the second night) prefers the rougher, unpolished side of the character. Both Desdemonas – sopranos Lana Kos and Lăcrămioara Cristescu respectively – have good, adequate voices for this demanding role, although one can sense the experience of the former and some nervousness in the performance of Cristescu, who made her debut in this role. I especially enjoyed Lana Kos’ rendition of the premonitory Willow Song that Desdemona sings before being murdered. All of the tenors planning to take on the title role in Otello are advised to be cautious, given its vocal and dramatic requirements. At the Bucharest Opera House, Daniel Magdal is a better Otello than Franceso Anile (who was possibly ill on the night of his performance?), being able to resist until the end…The performances were conducted by Mihnea Ignat, who could be more of a firm hand in keeping the soloists, orchestra, and choir together.

I heard someone in the audience say this could have been a concert version opera (she was obviously referring to the minimalist approach), so it might be best to check the cast before you go to the next Otello performances, as the quality of the voices on stage is an extremely important, decisive factor here.

  • Opera
  • By Giuseppe Verdi
  • Directed by Giancarlo del Monaco
  • Libretto by Arrigo Boito
  • Cast includes: Ionuţ Pascu, Francesco Anile, Lana Kos, Daniel Magdal, Lăcrămioara Cristescu
  • National Opera House, Bucharest

About The Author

Reviewer (Romania )

Irina Cristina Vasilescu has been a radio shows producer and moderator with Radio România Muzical since 2005. A graduate of the National University of Music in Bucharest (Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Musicology), Irina completed her academic formation in Dresden, Germany, then in Bonn, during her second MA programme, the bilingual (English-German) International Media Studies at Deutsche Welle Akademie. Irina has conducted hundreds of interviews, produced reportages, reviews, moderated countless news broadcasts, as well as live national and international broadcasts of symphonic concerts and operas.

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