Opera Review: Israeli Opera performance of 'Otello'

Conducted by Omer Welber, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion persuasively contributed the dramatic effects.

Othello (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
No room was left for doubt that Desdemona was indeed killed and Otello committed suicide in Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera’s direction of Verdi’s Otello at the Israel Opera.
He belongs to the genre of directors who leave nothing to the imagination, assuming audience intelligence cannot be relied upon to understand gruesome events that are only hinted at and not explicitly shown.
His direction and Carlo Sala’s sets were minimalist-realistic, mercifully not burdening the stage with superfluous elements, except for some palm trees that were supposed to suggest the Middle Eastern environment.
In the title role, Gustavo Porta was the dominant figure, leaving all the others in his formidable shadow. His impressive, clear tenor, appealingly soft and caressing in his love scene and shatteringly powerful in his rage; he did not just act his part but virtually lived it, convincingly conveying his profound emotional identification with his role.
His Farewell Aria and Revenge Duet, with Jago, were among the performance’s highlights. Portraying him as a rolling-on-the-floor madman did not do justice to Otello’s honest though thwarted personality.
As Desdemona, soprano Ira Bertman was apparently under the erroneous assumption that strong feelings should be expressed by loud, vulgar shouting. The more intense and tragic this gentle, frail character’s emotions get, the quieter and more internalized her innermost self is likely to be expressed. A compensation was her Ave Maria that calmly and movingly conveyed her despair.
Marco Vratogna was the performance’s disappointment.
His friendly, warm-sounding baritone did not possess the dark timbre and force that express the personification of evil. His first aria was hurried and indifferent, without properly emphasizing the weighty, doom-foreboding descending chromatic tones, and his Credo sounded like a statement of fact rather than a declaration of evil.
Conducted by Omer Welber, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion persuasively contributed the dramatic effects. It also effectively drowned the choir’s and the soloists’ voices, that got a chance to make themselves heard mainly when the unrestrained orchestra had a rest.