Otello in Bordeaux Pleases in Many Ways

FranceFrance Verdi: Otello, Orchestra Bordeaux Aquitaine, Chorus Opera Bordeaux, Julia Jones (conductor), Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, 24.11.2013 (JMI)

Otello GuillaumeBonnaud
Otello Guillaume Bonnaud

Otello: Carlo Ventre
Desdemona: Leah Crocetto
Iago: Laurent Naouri
Cassio: Benjamín Bernheim
Emilia: Svetlana Lifar
Ludovico: Mischa Schelomianski
Roderigo: Xin Wang
Montano: David Ortega
Herald: Davide Ronzoni
New Production:
Opera Bordeaux in co-production with Staatstheater Nürnberg
Direction: Gabriele Rech
Sets: Dieter Richter
Costumes: Gabriele Heimann
Lighting: Thomas Schlegel


 This production of Otello was artistically pleasing overall, with an excellent musical interpretation, an interesting cast, and an acceptable stage production.

Gabriele Rech followed the model, which has become increasingly common, of a one-piece set enclosed by walls and lateral columns, and a large space in the center where props define the different scenes. These props consisted of a pool table in Acts II and III, a stand for the arrival of Ludovico, and a bed for the final act. The action has been brought up to modern times and, for the most part, military uniforms were replaced by formal dress. This was particularly effective for the choir at the reception of the Venetian ambassador but much less so for Desdemona.

The stage direction focused mainly on the characters rather than on the crowds and narrated the story well. Otello was not black in this production, although he painted his face for the final act. As Mimi says, “Il perché non so.” Iago was extremely evil from the beginning, which is not my conception of this character. One of Rech’s contributions was to present Bianca, the object of Cassio’s sexual desire, on stage; she is a high-class prostitute and very attractive indeed. The pool table served for the scene between Iago and Cassio, but also to hide Otello and as a place for Bianca and Cassio to demonstrate their passion.

British director Julia Jones offered a brilliant reading of the opera, lively and attentive to detail. She drew an excellent performance from the orchestra, who had their sound under control at all times. This was one of the best performances I remember from Julia Jones, who will return to Bordeaux in a few months with Bluebeard’s Castle. The choir was also excellent.

Uruguayan tenor Carlo Ventre made his debut in the character of Otello a few years ago in Frankfurt, and his performance here offered lights and shadows. His voice has widened, and he is today a true spinto tenor, well-suited to the demands of the character, with enough size in the middle and firm, bright high notes. Not many tenors can sing this score, and Ventre passes the test. However, Otello is more than the voice, and that is where Ventre’s interpretation was not fully convincing: his excessively open sounds resulted in a somewhat monotonous Otello who lacked depth and expressiveness. But all in all, with his virtues and defects, he was a valid Otello.

American soprano Leah Crocetto has everything required for an important career in the world of opera. Her voice is attractive, with good volume, and for me her Desdemona was the highlight of the performance.

French baritone Laurent Naouri as Iago was a very good actor but less satisfying in vocal terms. His voice is rather unattractive, tending to open sounds and looking for more volume, which doesn’t complement this sinuous character.

Tenor Benjamin Bernheim made a good impression as Cassio, and the other secondary characters were good.

The Grand Theatre was sold out. The audience gave an enthusiastic reception to the artists at the final bows.

José Mª. Irurzun

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