REVIEW: Opera - Otello

Met Live — Odeon Cinema, Waterford


As the lights rose on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, they dimmed in the Odeon in Waterford as the Met production of Otello was beamed via satellite into cinemas across Ireland. The live element added a frisson and when the camera panned around the stalls, our Lincoln Plaza counterparts appeared to be a cheerful lot, not noticeably tuxedoed or pearl festooned, and broader in age range than the 50 or so gathered in the Odeon.

There was much to enjoy. Yannick Nézet-Seguin’s lively conducting of the superb ensemble, exposed the subtleties in Verdi’s score, rife with plangent pizzicatos and dark woodwind colours. Projected images depicting mists and swirling seas worked well on screen and the dramatic action stood out sharply against elegant sets of gliding glass panels bathed in red at ominous moments. The merest blip in Eric Owens bland interval chat with leads reminded us of the potentially precarious nature of satellite broadcast but there were no breaks in transmission.

Much was made in the press of the politically correct decision not to black up Otello, played by Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko. This did rob the title role of a visible symbol of his outsider status. All three leads were convincing and dramatic tension never flagged.

The camera picked up every sly glance of Serbian baritone Zelijko Lucik’s malevelolent, scheming Iago. The cinema audience favourite was the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona, whose plaintive Ave Maria and Willow Song in Act 4 were highlights.

The Met HD Live series is 10 years old (five years in Ireland via CAI ) and has changed how many of us encounter opera. Other houses have followed suit and every other week or so, a lavish production from a major establishment can be viewed in cinemas.

OK — so you don’t get to climb the Met’s cantilevered red carpeted stairway and you have to endure the popcorn queue on the way to buy your tickets but some of the best voices of our era can be heard at an accessible venue.

At €24 a ticket, it is relatively expensive, working out at about the same as the cheapest seat in the nose bleed seats in New York. Overall, however, this was a rewarding production and a great night out.

Cathy Desmond

  • Tannhauser is next in the Met Live series on October 31


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