Daily Mail, 1 July 2017
By David Mellor for Event
Verdi: Otello, Royal Opera House, London, 21. Juni 2017
He's a jolly good Otello - but Iago is a tragedy!
Jonas Kaufmann stars in this searing account of Verdi’s tender, passionate and violent opera

It’s a tribute to Antonio Pappano that Jonas Kaufmann has chosen Covent Garden for his first (and maybe last) Otello, because every one of the world’s leading opera houses wanted this one.

Pappano rewards Kaufmann, and the rest of us, with a searing account of arguably Verdi’s greatest opera; by turns tender, passionate and, of course, violent.

Only in the duet Si Pel Ciel that ends Act II does Pappano overwhelm his singers. It’s a sign that even at his best, Kaufmann doesn’t really possess the kind of ‘tenore da forza’ (power tenor) voice Otello needs, and also that, following his prolonged vocal problems, Kaufmann – though he sounded really well for the whole of the opening night – may find even the present run of five performances difficult.

He is undoubtedly the most vocally and physically charismatic exponent of this role here since Domingo. However, when I look at the sort of partners Domingo had when playing Otello, the Royal Opera hasn’t exactly splashed the cash on either the Iago or the Desdemona.

Marco Vratogna is a good actor but way too shouty for a top-class Iago. Tito Gobbi, or indeed Giuseppe Taddei, must be spinning in their graves.

As for Maria Agresta’s Desdemona, some liked her more than I did. But she simply isn’t vulnerable enough for what should be one of opera’s most touching roles. She didn’t move me a jot, and her obvious lack of vocal beauty in the Willow Song and the Ave Maria robs these passages of their deeply moving quality.

No complaints, however, about the orchestra, who play magnificently. Nor the chorus, who, under William Spaulding’s leadership, performed heroically all evening. The opening storm scene was as wondrous a noise as I have ever heard here.

It was also pleasing to have enjoyed Keith Warner’s production as much as I did, given how erratic his Shakespeare operas have been in Germany. No doubt he was told not to frighten the horses after so many recent disastrous first nights here.

Sadly, though, in the last act things do fall apart a bit, with a bedroom scene looking like a Harrods window (not a compliment) and a large statue of a Venetian lion in pieces beside the bed. Talk about a cliché!

Before that, debutant designer Boris Kudlicka’s sets, apparently inspired by period lattice windows, and beautifully lit by Bruno Poet, are invariably eloquently atmospheric, especially during Iago’s Credo, where the lattice work is lit to look like the interior of a medieval cathedral.

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