"È il fazzoletto ch’io le diedi,
pegno primo d’amor."
That is the handkerchief I gave her, first token of my love.
"Quel fazzoletto ieri–certo ne son–lo vidi in man di Cassio.."That handkerchief I saw– I am sure of it–yesterday in the hand of Cassio!
The roaring tempest that opens Verdi´s OTELLO (over which the Moorish general manages to triumph, upon his vessel´s safe arrival in port after a soundly defeating a fleet of ships that had been the Muslims´ pride, but succumbed, first to Otello´s forces and then to the storm), would be nothing more than a trifling breeze compared to the internal, emotional hurricane that will irremediably sink Otello into a most absurd ordeal of assassination and suicide. The impetuous music of the opera´s first scene, complete with thunder, lightning, and surging, crashing waves, serves as the prelude to an intimate tragedy that will wind up enveloping its protagonist in “a fine cloth embroidered with flowers...more subtly woven than a veil” that will engulf and destroy him as the forces of nature could not. The musical score, with its complex twists and turns, announces the birth of the Verdi music drama—swimming in the composer´s own musical language but inevitably marked, as is all opera from that day forward, by post-Wagnerian evolution.
A complete success, the version presented to us by Marco Parisotto in the musical, and Ragnar Conde in the theatrical, direction: With respect for tradition but also some modern touches, this production unites quality in concept and design with excellence in its cast of singers and superb work by the entire staff, whose abilities grow with each successive collaboration in understanding, professionalism, and creative expression. Add to all of this the passion for their work, and the artistic discipline, commanded by General Manager Ing. Arturo Gomez Poulat and Monica Anguiano in Artistic Direction-- along with their many collaborators, these hard-working individuals participants in a mystic communion that made such great achievements possible. Opera performance requires, along with a profound knowledge and intensive study of the work to be presented onstage, a series of prerequisites without which, as we well know, it would be impossible to achieve the desired results.
In addition to all of these considerations, we affirm without any doubt, that this OTELLO has been the group´s highest operatic achievement to date, in a period of barely three years since this adventure was first undertaken. The accumulated experience, the level of maturity that has been reached, and the good fortune to be able to count on an excellent cast whose principals could already be considered the “home team”, putting heart and soul into the challenge of mounting this very difficult masterpiece, were essential. Parisotto bet on all of this--and won. His understanding of the music is evident: the love and the passion, the Verdian force, the subtleties and derring-dos of a complex and complicated orchestration, the use of leitmotif, tempos, dynamics—all perfectly resolved. The orchestra responded superbly, achieving its maximum potential.
Conde has produced the best mise-en-scène that I’ve seen from him. It demonstrates creativity in scenic design, with a pragmatic, multifunctional set—classic, modern, audiovisual, provided by Enrique Morales “Chester”. This innovative set permits large-scale movements of chorus and soloists, meeting all of the opera’s demands for both movement and vocal projection, enhanced by the magnificent acoustics of this beautiful and highly functional theater. The actor-singers were eloquent and credible, transmitting their emotion directly to the audience. They fleshed out their characters, giving them body, soul, skin—and guts.
Issachah Savage, the American whom the critics have praised for his ““impressive natural instrument” (Opera News), possesses a voice of great beauty, power, and range, with a special quality that Mexicans in earlier times called “la lágrima en la voz”, the capacity to portray the multiple emotions and extreme sentiments that the tragic, fragile role of Otello demands. Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska imbues the role of Desdemona with an angelic, suffering personality as she is transformed from a joyful, loving woman to the terrorized, unjustly assassinated martyr wife. American baritone Michael Chioldi’s Iago adds another Verdi villain role to his growing list as he becomes a specialist in such characterizations, oozing evil and hypocrisy as part of his terrifying presence.
Fine work by the supporting cast as well: the Cassio of Harold Meers, Emilia, performed by the Mexican Cassandra Zoé Velasco with her lovely, colorful timbre and rich dynamics, Roderigo by Daniel Montenegro, a Mexican living in the U.S., and Montano, the great quarrelsome swashbuckler injured by Cassio in the drinking scene, was sung and acted very well by Mexican baritone Josué Cerón. The Russian bass already known to Tapatio audiences, Grigory Soloviov, brought life to Lodovico, incredulous at the irrational transformation of the General, brought about by hurt and betrayal. The debut appearance of the Coro de Zapopan, directed by Timothy G. Ruff Welch, was such that none would have believed that it was the first time its members had acted in an opera.
With these presentations of OTELLO, Guadalajara’s opera company has arrived at a level that converts it to a real contender in the still-desolate national operatic panorama. Our compliments! This is just the beginning, and it’s starting so well…Congratulations!
Mexico City, Tuesday, November 29, 2016