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Verdi - Otello

Cassio – Wynne Evans

Iago – Mark Holland

Roderigo – Robin Tritschler

Otello – Terence Robinson

Desdemona – Amanda Roocroft

Emillia – Claire Bradshaw

Lodovico – David Soar


Michal Klauza  - Conductor

Paul Curran – Director

Paul Edwards – Designer

David Martin Jacques – Lighting


Welsh National Opera Birmingham Hippodrome 18 November 2008


Birmingham’s Hippodrome was crowded and a buzz of buoyant expectation was in the air.  There may well have been others in the audience too who held treasured memories of Peter Stein’s ground breaking 1980’s Otello for WNO, when the principal roles were sung by Jeffrey Lawton (Otello), Helen Field (Desdemona) and Donald Maxwell as the ultimate in duplicitous Iagos.


Sadly this new production proved but a very pale shadow of its illustrious forerunner.  


True Paul Edwards’ designs looked a lot more ambitious, and the costumes for the state scene in Act III were a sumptuous fantasy of scarlet and gold, but Paul Curran’s direction seemed to involve an excess of movement that completely swamped the essential subtlety of the plot at the centre of this drama. 


Due allowance must be made for the absence of both Dennis O’Neill, scheduled to sing the title role and a constant favourite with WNO audiences, and David Kempster whose debut Iago in this production had received wide acclaim.  Both were suffering throat infections, and whilst replacements Terence Robinson and Mark Holland spared no effort, neither produced a performance of any note.


Amanda Roocroft has all the vocal accomplishment required to shine as Desdemona but, perhaps stymied by power-dressing outfits, she never succeeded in looking vulnerable.   Her performance was eclipsed by the beautifully judged Emilia of Claire Bradshaw.


Wynne Evans sang strongly as Cassio, and David Soar exerted his authority as the Doge’s ambassador.


The augmented chorus (good to see Peter Massocchi’s face standing out in the crowd) and orchestra performed bravely, but under the direction of Michal Klauza, Verdi’s score seemed to run to a very routine beat, and dare I say was reduced to mediocrity?


Serena Fenwick


Photo credit:  Catherine Ashmore – Otello