Otello at the Salzburg Easter Festival

Xl_otelloeastersalzburg1 © Forster

Dark and mysterious is the start of this new production of Otello at the Easter Festival in Salzburg.
Desdemona and Otello appear on the vast empty stage embracing each other till the music starts. A huge soft transparent piece of cloth is smoothly waving over the stage like a huge sail and vail. And here he is. Un angelo - the angel, an idea and addition to the cast by French director Vincent Boussard. Played by the dancer Sofia Pintzou, the angel accompanies the story throughout the evening with moving and expressive gestures, symbolizing the black evil and mystery of the plot of Jago, Otello's counterpart and the tragic of his intrigue. The fire Jago creates in the heart of Otello burns on and off, on visuals and also real on stage, and finally enflames the angel. Strong images which are accompagnied by a wonderful monochrome light direction by Guido Levi and sublime video effects by Isabel Robson. The use of the vast stage  by the direction team is very clever during all the evening, modeling intimate minimized nuclei by light effects. There is no stage design, the only object is a long moving table, again used to focus on the plot. The prestigous historical costums designed by Haut Couturier Christian Lacroix are outstanding. It is an exciting evening of visual effects, beautiful, harmonious and luxurious scenes in a steady flow.

Christian Thielemann, conductor of the evening and artistic director of the renown festival, matches the flow in the orchestra pit. His Verdi is rhythmic, vibrant, emotional but not dramatic. The musicians of the Saechsische Staatskapelle follow as always, very concentrated and attentive, all single instrumentalist play immaculate and produce a very transparent clear and fresh sound. Christian Thielemann is omnipresent and his experience as opera conductor is more than helpful for the stars of the evening.

Very sad circumstances have affected the original cast. Johan Botha and Dmitri Hvorostovsky originally scheduled for the performance had to be replaced due to their serious illnesses. Argentine Jose Cura is a reputable tenor and Otello has been one of his major roles in his career. His experience together with a well elaborated technique and strong stage presence help him to present a homogenous and convincing interpretation, but his lack of strong height and flexibility as well color could be felt. Carlos Alvarez took over the role of his counterpart Jago. Elegant in his well cut suit and coat, he is a fine, mysterious but not mean man. His bariton is lyric with a silver timbre. Dorothea Roschmann joins them as the victim of their jealousy and rivalry. Dressed up as a glorious blond wife of the hero, she does not convince either by her singing and acting. Her soprano shows aging dramatic vibrato and a lacks of tenderness and glitter. During the evening, she warms up and suceeds to tame her voice, which happens to be good for the last act since it is her main part of the evening. Proud and selfconfident, timid and devote, aware of her fate she touches the audience with her last two arias. Young Tenor Benjamin Bernheim is already a steady guest in Salzburg and a safe bet in his role. His Cassio is honest, incapable to realise the intrigue, sung with his bright, voluminous and extensive voice.

The Salzburg Easter festival convinces again with its high quality in its opera and all the concerts, within others Ludwig van Beethoven 's Missa Solemnis or Triple concert with exquisite solists as Ann Sophie Mutter, Yefim Bronfman and Lynn Harrell. Next year will face the 50th anniversary of this festival created by unforgettable Herbert von Karajan. The management has prepared an extraordinary fabulous programme presenting the leading orchestras of the world, the Vienese and Berlin Philharmoniker together with the Saechsische Staatskapelle and a reprise of Richard Wagner's Die Walküre first shown in the opening year of 1967, stage designed by Günther Schneider Siemssen.

Helmut Pitsch

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