|Juan Antonio Muñoz H.
Verdi: Otello, Royal Opera House, London, 21. Juni 2017
Everyone will want to hear and see Jonas Kaufmann’s extraordinary “Othello”
The word“extraordinary” represents well what the great German tenor achieves
with this tremendous role, of such great vocal and dramatic demands. It
rarely happens that an artist is capable of making something so much of his
own that it does not resemble anything known before, becoming thereby
incomparable. There is not nor ever has there been another Othello such as
Jonas Kaufmann’s, as simple and surprising as that may be.
Othello is, first of all, much more of a lover and an easily manageable man
than a fierce warrior hero. Such a condition of triumphant general begins
and ends with his “Esultate!”, because from then on Jonas Kaufmann develops
a character who is undecided to the point of weakness, uncomfortable in the
exercise of political leadership and in the company of soldiers. It could be
said that he projects the Moor as a man who is even afraid of not fulfilling
his wife sexually, an idea which ends up by making his later murderous rage
more understandable, with the marriage already consummated.
famous“glory of Othello” is an external triumph that is not related to what
the Moor believes or thinks of himself, a feeling of perhaps social or
racial impairment, which has broken his mind and soul.To this is added that
very strange insistence that Desdemona loves him on account of his
misfortunes and that he loves her for her pity: in fact, curious principles
on which to base a love relationship.
The storm with which the opera
begins is an extrapolation of what Kaufmann’s Othello is feeling inside. The
affirmation of others is not sufficient for the Moor to annihilate the
monster he has in his soul which does not let him live. The idea of stage
director Keith Warner is both symptomatic and brilliant when he places
Othello arising from the bottom of the earth to proclaim his victory at the
precise moment in which Desdemona’s figure appears from above, like a light:
it is to her that he sings his victory and not to the people. In short, he
is saying, “I can”.
The duet with Desdemona was masterful in
Kaufmann’s dark and velvety voice, including the pianissimo A in “Verene
splende”. His acting progressed continuously until it reached the summit in
the terrible duet with Desdemona and the stubborn insistence in the search
for the handkerchief; in the monologue “Dio! mi potevi scagliar”,a prodigy
of phrasing and construction during which his increasing anger is penetrated
by an aristocratic authority that is accentuated by the magnificent physical
presence of the tenor, and in the scene of the murder and subsequent
suicide,where his fine musicality (unparalleled today in the world of
opera), his nuancing capacity, the richness of his middle voice and his
delivery translated themselves to an emotional state that took hold of the
María Agresta,whose voice has grown and who is
apparently unable to fully control her vocal volume to address the more
intimate lines, was all right. Her Desdemona is innocent, but not fragile.
Unfortunately, Ludovic Tézier cancelled his debut as Iago, because he would
have been a perfect complement for the complex design of Kaufmann’s Othello;
there was also the Italian Marco Vratogna, who is a more than efficient
singer but is not able to portray the thousand faces of that demon who
claims to be constituted by evil. Kai Rüütel’s Emilia was a routine act;
Frédéric Antoun as Cassio, In Sung Sim as Lodovico and Thomas Atkins as
Roderigo were all very good.
Keith Warner’s production turned out to
be a delight on account of its intelligence and disturbing beauty. The stage
was understood as a sort of black box which, to a certain extent, “embodies”
the darkness of the protagonist’s mind, with the light barely entering
through small windows and filtering through walls of metallic arabesques.
With virtual austerity, Warner built a picture of great psychological
penetration, highlighting the chiaroscuri and a world of shadows where black
and twilight blue predominate; the sky of the first act’s love duet has a
new expressive opportunity with the night gown worn by Othello in the murder
scene (one has to admit that it’s a suggestive idea).
recollections of Murnau film images and references to the expressionist
theater and mental world of Orson Welles “Othello”, the setting uses white
only for Desdemona and the Venetian court, the same which makes its entrance
at the most inappropriate moment, crushing with its anthropological and
statuary opulence–of government, of class– what little there was left of the
acclaimed Moor. Shakespeare, Verdi and Boito would have been happy with this
look at their drama.
It was wonderful to have maestro Antonio Pappano
on this historic evening!From its initial storm to themor end ochords of the
last bars, the orchestra allowed us to listen to the thousand layers of this
masterpiece and hundreds of details that are generally overlooked–such as
the solo contrabasses during the last act– which tell us of a thick boiling
of souls who inevitably walk towards condemnation.