By Joel Kasow
NEW YORK, 22 FEBRUARY 2013 Televising opera is not an easy
task, particularly when the principals are not especially known for their
expressivity, thereby robbing closeups of their force. The Mets
Otello in HD offers a case in point. Despite a powerful reading
from conductor Semyon Bychkov and lucid staging by Elijah Moshinsky, the
impassive Otello of Johan Botha lacks the animal quality that so
distinguished the performances of Mario del Monaco, John Vickers or James
McCracken, to cite some distinguished predecessors. Musically he cannot be
faulted as he has the strength for the explosive moments but also the
ability to sing lyrically when required.
Renée Fleming (Desdemona) and Johan Botha (Otello)
Falk Struckmanns Iago is another victim of the close-up, as his manner
of singing does not add to his characterization, though he otherwise is
convincing in his movements. Renée Flemings Desdemona is a thoroughly
professional job, as we have come to expect, her face mobile, her singing
mostly exquisite except when she inserts a "bluesy" inflection. Michael
Fabiano seems to be baffled by the close-ups but he is otherwise quite
photogenic and may learn to be more at home as his career progresses.
James Morris was far from imposing as Lodovico, the voice tired and
lacking in authority. The remaining singers were at a level we have come
to expect from the Met, but this is one performance that does not
especially benefit from the cameras close inspection.
Great Performances: Otello at the
Otello, Verdi's tragedy of love and jealousy, airs Sunday
24 February 2013 at 12 noon on PBS
(check local listings).
Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor at Culturekiosque. He
has been opera critic for Opera (U.K.) and Opera News (U.S.A.) for over
thirty years and was elected to the International Music Critics
Association (UNESCO) in 1996.