It’s no surprise that, after 59 years, Lyric Opera of Chicago knows how to throw a dazzling party. This spectacularly festive affair was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. But for us opera goers—ogling the literati and glitterati—it was a sensational prelude to the musical feast of Otello and a promise of another magnificent season: Lyric Opera of Chicago 2013-14. Even the Lion of San Marco, the iconic symbol of Venice, was displayed in his golden splendor for the occasion. The evening was off to an exciting, enchanting, exultant start and the baton had not even been lifted.
Otello, the season’s first opera, was nearly Verdi’s last. Discouragement, self-doubt, and competition with Wagner dogged Verdi’s progress. But, as we learned in the program notes, his librettist, Boito convinced him that he was “predestined” to interpret Othello. Today, Otello is widely regarded as one of the finest operas in the Italian repertoire—partly because it lacks Wagnerian pomp!
It also lacks Shakespeare’s first act in Othello. Instead, Otello opens with the dramatic storm (complete with some somber phasing from his Requiem) of Act 2, setting us up emotionally for a highly charged evening of murder, deceit and intrigue.
What a perfect season opener! I have heard it said that Otello is so accessible, it would be a great first opera for an opera novice. I couldn’t agree more. It is a perfect example of the power of operatic expression: the music communicates such powerful emotions, it almost doesn’t need translation.
Moreover, the acting is so excellent—Iago is the very embodiment of evil. And, I must add, Todd Thomas, who understudied Iago’s role and stepped in after Act One, was so outstanding—he just stepped on stage and became evil! When he walked on stage for the curtain call, the audience roared its approval.
Otello is so tragic. One explanation is his insecurity because he is not Venetian but a Moor. Racism is one of the elements of this conflicted drama and conceivably a factor that Iago used to manipulate Otello’s self-doubt. Also, at that time, women were also considered to be promiscuous, so that could be a reason he questioned Desdemona’s loyalty. Still, seeing them together so deeply in love and then her murder makes the whole ordeal more heart-rending.
Otello IS a great first opera. And it is a great season opener.
Photos: Herb Simms (GALA Banner), Dan Rest (Production Photos)
Consider the magnificent works which follow in this sparkling season:
Opens October 15: Madama Butterfly––Puccini’s tragic geisha makes the ultimate sacrifice for love.
Opens November 9: Parsifal—The sacred and profane vie for supremacy in Wagner’s masterpiece.
Opens November 20: La Traviata––Paris’s most alluring courtesan finally finds true love—but it’s too late.
Opens December 10: Die Fledermaus––From Johann Strauss, Jr.––the world’s most sparkling operetta and a favorite of Mahler!
Opens February 1: The Barber of Seville––Who’s the guy to fix your love life? Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!
Opens February 22: Rusalka––In DvoĹ™ak’s fairytale. A water nymph gives up everything to be human.
Opens March 5: La Clemenza di Tito––Everyone’s out to get the Emperor in Mozart’s emotion-packed drama.
Plus the most popular family musical ever!
Opens April 26: The Sound of Music
Main floor from $65, Balcony from $34
4-opera subscriptions still available from $100
Price subject to change
Call 312.332.2244 or visit lyricopera.org