At 57 — not all that old for a dramatic tenor — Russian tenor Vladimir Atlantov has no reason to be singing so badly: the voice forced into an almost constant rasp, the pitch variable to the point of pain. He always has been known as one of the world’s loudest tenors, and one can only suspect that he has ruined his instrument prematurely.
The vast range of the operatic experience was handily explored hereabouts last week — first by the Los Angeles Music Center Opera’s “Italian Girl in Algiers” on Wednesday (disastrous, but with a splendid performance of the title role) and then by Costa Mesa’s Opera Pacific’s “Otello” three-nights later (splendid, but with a disastrous performance of the title role). Visually, his Otello was of the lurch, clutch ‘n’ totter persuasion — an exact counterpart, in other words, for his singing.
More’s the pity, for impresario David Di Chiera’s estimable Opera Pacific (now, like the Los Angeles company, in its 10th year) has fielded an otherwise splendid cast under Steven Mercurio’s vivid, probing baton: Kallen Esperian’s sweet, touching Desdemona (whose last-act prayer was so hauntingly delivered as to still the usual intrusive applause) and Robert McFarland’s zinger of an Iago.
On Zack Brown’s spacious, agreeably uncluttered set, director Mario Corradi has added a few original, nondistracting touches: the second-act sideline conversation between Desdemona and Cassio done as shadows projected from offstage, Otello’s slaying of Iago at the fourth-act moment of truth.
In all, then, the measure properly taken of one of opera’s imperishable masterworks: For the moment, at least, Opera Pacific leads the pack.