Otello At LA Opera – Have A Beer With Fear, Rage, Jealousy And Betrayal

“I believe in a cruel God
who created me in his image
and who in fury I name.
From the very vileness of a germ
or an atom, vile was I born.
I am a wretch because I am a man,
and I feel within me the primeval slime.
Yes! This is my creed!

…I believe the just man to be a mocking actor
in face and heart;
that all his being is a lie,
tear, kiss, glance,
sacrifice and honour.
And I believe man the sport of evil fate
from the germ of the cradle
to the worm of the grave”


Boy, those opera people sure are DRAMATIC! Everything in the best operas gets rendered at a thousand percent, every emotion manipulated masterfully with the maestro sculpting every moment of sound. While there are many operas that really “do that opera thing”, perhaps none does it quite so intensely as Verdi’s Otello, opening at the LA Opera tonight and running through June 4.

It begins on a ship about to go under in the middle of a stormy sea- I mean, you’re going to OPEN with that? You’re going to make it build up from that? But it does build up. Both the story and the music only get stronger, darker, and more violent. I took a college course in which we read the Shakespeare play and listened to this opera, taking note of how the music was playing our emotions to amplify the story line. It’s just a splendid example of how that kind of thing is done. Verdi’s melodies stick in the craw for ages. It has perhaps the greatest drinking song in opera, of which there are many.  Iago’s aria “Credo In Un Dio Crudel” is the most deliciously lacerating ode to selfish cruelty and awfulness on this side of Cannibal Corpse.

This production at the Chandler, with the masterful Russell Thomas in the title role, soprano Rachel Willis-Sorenson as Desdemona, and James Conlon at the podium, promises to be one for the ages. Thomas is one of the most highly praised singers on the stage today, and an LA Opera Artist in Residence that you should see live while he’s here. Willis-Sorenson, a native of Washington state, has gained notoriety recently for her recorded renditions of Strauss. Both are stellar dramatists, bringing strong emotion to life with phrasing and tone choices. Be sure to grab a stiff drink and “beva, beva” during the intermission, you’re going to need one.

LA Opera presents Otello at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion from May 13 through June 5. Tickets, $24, to $324, available at the LA Opera website.  

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