Review: ‘Otello’

Operaphiles afflicted with cabin fever should find the L.A. Opera's new "Otello" a liberating experience of life on the ocean waves.

Operaphiles afflicted with cabin fever should find the L.A. Opera’s new “Otello” a liberating experience of life on the ocean waves. From the moment Ian Storey, in the title role, mounts his 35-foot topmast to proclaim his triumph over Turkish invaders, to the final curtain call, which finds cast and chorus assembled for what looks for all the world like a rousing chorus of “We Sail the Ocean Blue,” Verdi’s powerful dockside tragedy surges forward on designer Johan Engels’ deck, which is possessed of nary a flat surface. Even the firm throne of Cyprus’ Governor must rest atilt. Off in the distance, past the neon outline of a ship railing, appear now and then some lit-up shapes. The tall buildings of some post-Shakespearian, post-Verdian city? Your call.

Such maritime diversion seems curiously at odds with the firm dramatic values in this altogether excellent revival of Verdi’s Shakespearian masterpiece, with its firm, dark passions handsomely explored. Beyond all this visual paraphernalia there unfolds a reasonable, musically responsible and sometimes thrilling production of one of the greatest of all operas, superbly thought out by music director James Conlon.

In his long-overdue company debut in his signature role of Iago, American baritone Mark Delavan serves as dramatic focus, from his first dark, poison-tipped tones onward and downward; in the title role, British tenor Storey, also new to the company, writhes under that poison, and we feel the pain. In a debut on two-days’ notice — replacing ailing soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domas — Russian soprano Elena Evseeva overcame a few pardonable insecurities to expire most eloquently.


Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 3,098 seats; top ticket $238


A Los Angeles Opera presentation of a co-production with the Opera de Monte Carlo and the Teatro Regio di Parma of Giuseppe Verdi's four-act opera; libretto by Arrigo Boito derived from Shakespeare's tragedy.


Music director, James Conlon; staged by John Cox; designed by Johan Engels; lighting designed by Simon Corder. Chorus director, Grant Gershon. Opened, reviewed Feb. 16, 2008; runs through March 9. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.


Otello - Ian Storey Desdemona - Elena Evseeva Iago - Mark Delavan Cassio - Derek Taylor Emilia - Ning Liang
With Ryan McKinny, Gregory Warren, Eric Halfvarson, Matthew Moore.
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