Tuesday, October 22, 2013

One Verdi Opera per Day: Otello

Arrigo Boito after Shakespeare  January 5, 1887  La Scala, Milan

Mario del Monaco, Renata Tebaldi, Leonard Warren, Martha Lipton, Paul Franke, Luben Vichey, James McCracken (Roderigo) Fritz Steidry conducts  Metropolitan Opera broadcast  March 12, 1955

This gets harder. It wasn't too difficult to offer impressions of the early Verdi operas. I liked Aroldo and Alzira , didn't care much for Giovanna d'Arco. But when you get into Aida=Don Carlo it gets harder to know what to say. Otello is harder still. I love this opera. I'm thrilled by it. But I seldom listen to it. So real does the tragedy become for me that I can't bear knowing what's to come, even from act I. Still, what tenor has a greater entrance than Otello's 'Esultate!'.  What baritone has a more sinister monologue that Iago's Credo.

And what soprano has the exquisite Salce and Ave Maria for Desdemona.

I avoid listening to Otello partly for what I've already stated, and partly because I fear the miracle of it won't hit me. I listened again today. I got hit.

Look at the devices used to relive tension. The Fuoco di gioia! chorus in Act I. The magnificent offstage serenade of Desdemona in Act II. Then in Act III, after Desdemona is insulted by her husband ('vil cortigiana!) Iago seduces Cassio-I intend that word, seduce-first with bel canto:Vieni...l'aura e deserto...and then piu rapido.

The final act orchestration always sound spare. Not just eerie, but haunted. Otello's suicide till keeps wit hit a degree of dignity-he remains a heroic figure, an important person, even after falling prey to Iago and murdering his wife. Verdi forbids us to regard Otello as stupid. Which is easy to do!

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