The October 27 matinee performance of Verdi’s tragic opera Otello will be transmitted live to movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series.In the Berkshires, it can be enjoyed at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield and at the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown. The Met: Live in HD is now seen in more than 1,900 theaters in 63 countries around the world. More information: http://www.metopera.org
Renée Fleming sings one of her greatest roles as the innocent Desdemona in Verdi’s towering tragedy Otello. South African tenor Johan Botha sings the title role, one of the most demanding parts in the operatic repertory, with German baritone Falk Struckmann as the treacherous villain Iago. Rising American tenor Michael Fabiano makes his Live in HD debut as Cassio. Maestro Semyon Bychkov conducts Verdi’s dramatic masterpiece, which is based on Shakespeare’s play. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, one of the Met’s leading Verdi stars, hosts the transmission and conducts backstage interviews with the stars. (Running time: approximately 181 minutes, including one intermission.)
The Shakespearean tragedy returned to the repertory on October 9, starring Johan Botha in the title role and Renée Fleming as Otello’s innocent wife, Desdemona. Semyon Bychkov, who led an acclaimed run of performances featuring Botha and Fleming in the 2007-08 season, returns to conduct the opera, regarded by many critics as Verdi’s dramatic masterpiece. Falk Struckmann takes the role of the villain Iago for the first time at the Met, and rising tenor Michael Fabiano, a winner of the Met’s 2007 National Council Auditions, makes his house role debut as Cassio. In March, the production returns to the repertory with Alain Altinoglu conducting. José Cura, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Thomas Hampson make house role debuts in the principal roles, and Russian tenor Alexey Dolgov makes his Met debut as Cassio. Otello will be seen in Elijah Moshinsky’s production, which premiered at the Met in 1994.
Semyon Bychkov made his Met debut in 2004 leading Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and returned in 2008 to conduct Otello. Last season, he conducted Puccini’s La Bohème at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten at La Scala; and Strauss’s Elektra at the Teatro Real in Madrid. On Sunday, October 14, he will conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in a program of Wagner and Strauss, featuring soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek.
Johan Botha sang his first performances of Otello’s demanding title role in 2008, under Bychkov’s baton. He has given acclaimed performances in a variety of roles at the Met, including Radamès in Verdi’s Aida and the title role in his Don Carlo; Calàf in Puccini’s Turandot; Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio; Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the role of his 1997 debut; and numerous Wagner heroes, including Walther in Der Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Siegmund in Die Walküre, and the title character in Lohengrin.
Renée Fleming first sang Desdemona at the Met in 1994, and it has become one of her most popular and acclaimed interpretations. Her diverse Met repertory includes 21 roles in a variety of operas. Her recent Met performances include the title character in the company premiere of Handel’s Rodelinda; the Countess in Strauss’s Capriccio; the title character in the Met premiere of Rossini’s Armida; the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier; and the title characters in Massenet’s Thaïs and Dvořák’s Rusalka.
Michael Fabiano’s 2007 win in the Met’s National Council Auditions was documented in Susan Froemke’s film The Audition. In 2010, he made his Met debut as Raffaele in Verdi’s Stiffelio and also sang in the company’s Summer Recital Series.
Falk Struckmann made his Met debut in 2000 in the title role of Berg’s Wozzeck and has also sung Telramund in Lohengrin, Don Pizarro in Fidelio, Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal, Abimélech in Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila, and, in 2011, Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca.
Alain Altinoglu made his Met debut in 2010 conducting Bizet’s Carmen. Last season, he led some performances of the new production of Gounod’s Faust, an opera he will conduct again at the Met this spring.
José Cura last appeared at the Met in the title role of Stiffelio. He made his Met debut in 1999 as Turiddu in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and has also sung Samson in Samson et Dalila, Cavaradossi in Tosca, and Canio in Pagliacci.
Krassimira Stoyanova made her Met debut in 2001 as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. In subsequent Met seasons, she has sung Liù in Turandot, Nedda in Pagliacci, Micaëla in Carmen, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème.
Iago will be Thomas Hampson’s sixth Verdi role at the Met, where he has also sung Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, Rodrigo in Don Carlo, the title role in Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo in Ernani and, last season, the title role in Macbeth. His extensive repertory also includes numerous Mozart roles, most frequently the title character in Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte; the Wagner roles of Amfortas in Parsifal and Wolfram in Tannhäuser; and the title roles in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Britten’s Billy Budd, Busoni’s Doktor Faust, Tchaikosvky’s Eugene Onegin, and Massenet’s Werther.
Alexey Dolgov joined the Met for its 2011 tour of Japan, singing Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, a role he also sang last season at the Washington National Opera.
Elijah Moshinsky made his Met debut in 1980 with a production of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. His other Met credits include the Met premiere production of Handel’s Samson and stagings of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Samson et Dalila, Verdi’s Luisa Miller and Nabucco, and Janáček’s The Makropulos Case.
Synopsis of Otello
ACT I. Cyprus, late fifteenth century. The Moor Otello, governor of the island and a general in the Venetian army, arrives in port as a tempest rages. Iago, Otello’s ensign, confers with Roderigo, a fop who has come to Cyprus because of his unrequited love for Desdemona, a Venetian beauty recently married to Otello. Promising to help Roderigo, Iago says Desdemona should soon tire of her Moorish husband, adding that he himself has reasons for revenge on Otello, who passed him over for advancement, promoting Cassio instead. Iago proposes a toast; when Cassio declines any more drink, Iago says he cannot refuse to salute Otello’s new wife. Cassio consents and grows tipsy as Iago provokes Roderigo to a duel with Cassio. When Montano, Otello’s predecessor in command, tries to separate the two, Cassio attacks him as well. Otello comes out of the castle to restore order. When he sees Desdemona disturbed by the fray, he takes away Cassio’s recent promotion. Sending everyone home, Otello turns to his bride, and they recall their courtship. Leading her back into the castle, Otello kisses her.
ACT II. A room in the castle, opening on a garden. Iago tells Cassio that by presenting his case to Desdemona he can be reinstated, because Otello is influenced by his wife. As soon as Cassio is out of sight, Iago declares his belief that a cruel God created man wicked, and life has no meaning. Iago watches as Cassio approaches Desdemona in the garden, and when Otello comes in, the lieutenant makes casual remarks about Desdemona’s fidelity. Softened by his wife’s beauty, Otello greets her, but she brings up the question of Cassio’s demotion, annoying him. When she offers a handkerchief to wipe his brow, he throws it to the ground, where her attendant, Emilia, retrieves it. As Desdemona tries to calm Otello, Iago orders Emilia (his wife) to give him the handkerchief. Otello asks to be alone, and the others leave, except for Iago, who hangs back to observe Otello’s growing suspicion. To fan the flames, Iago invents a story about how Cassio spoke lovingly of Desdemona in his sleep. Then he mentions her handkerchief, saying he saw it in Cassio’s hand. Beside himself, Otello swears to have vengeance, and Iago joins in the oath.
ACT III. In the armory, Iago tells Otello that more proof is forthcoming of his betrayal by his wife and Cassio. Desdemona enters, and Otello speaks calmly until she revives the subject of Cassio. When Otello demands the handkerchief he gave her, she again pleads for Cassio. Otello calls the shocked woman a courtesan and dismisses her. He cries out that heaven could have afflicted him with anything but this, then hides as Iago returns with Cassio. Iago flashes the handkerchief he stole and leads Cassio on in banter in such a way that Otello overhears only fragments and thinks they are talking about Desdemona. As trumpets announce dignitaries from Venice, Otello vows to kill his wife that very night. The Moor greets Lodovico, who recalls him to Venice and appoints Cassio to govern Cyprus. Losing control at this news, Otello pushes his wife to the floor with insults. He orders everyone out and collapses in a seizure as Iago gloats over him, crying, “Behold the Lion!”
ACT IV. As Emilia helps Desdemona prepare for bed, the frightened woman sings of a maiden forsaken by her lover. Startled by the wind, she bids Emilia an impassioned farewell and kneels in prayer before retiring. As soon as she has dozed off, Otello enters through a secret door and kisses his wife. This wakens her, but the jealous man, deaf to her protestations of innocence, strangles her. Emilia knocks with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo; entering, she is horrified to find the dying Desdemona and summons Cassio, Lodovico and Iago, who escapes when his wife reveals his treachery. Realizing his tragedy, Otello pulls out a concealed dagger and stabs himself, dying upon a final kiss.
– courtesy of Opera News