Estados Unidos

Otello after the Storm

Claudio Vellutini
miércoles, 27 de abril de 2011
Riccardo Muti al frente de la Sinfónica de Chicago © Todd Rosenberg Photography | CSO Riccardo Muti al frente de la Sinfónica de Chicago © Todd Rosenberg Photography | CSO
Chicago, sábado, 9 de abril de 2011. The Chicago Symphony Hall. Giuseppe Verdi, Otello. Aleksanders Antonenko (Otello), Krassimira Stoyanova (Desdemona), Carlo Guelfi (Jago), Juan Francisco Gatell (Cassio), Barbara Di Castri (Emilia), Michael Spyres (Rodrigo), Paolo Battaglia (Montano), Eric Owens (Ludovico), David Goversten (A Herald). The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Chicago Children’s Choir. Duaine Wolf, chorus master. Riccardo Muti, conductor
0,0001358 The powerful storm that opens Verdi’s Otello swept away the clouds looming over the first year of Riccardo Muti’s tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After a very successful opening of the season last September, the Italian conductor cancelled one performance after another due to health reasons. Rumors spread that he might not even manage to fulfill his commitment to the orchestra -a worrisome perspective after a difficult and costly process to lure him to Chicago. Luckily, these preocuppations proved to be unfounded. Last April Muti came back on the podium of the CSO, leading the orchestra through three outstanding, sold-out concert performances of Verdi’s opera.

For over thirty years, since his tenure as principal conductor at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Otello has been a staple of his repertory. He conducted it at La Scala in 2001 at the conclusion of the Verdi year, when he adopted the Paris version of the act-3 finale (the very last piece of music Verdi wrote for the stage), and subsequently at the Salzburg Festival and at the Rome Opera in 2008. During this long period, Muti’s approach to the opera became richer in details without losing any of its freshness, immediacy, and overarching tension. Under his baton, the energetic sound of the CSO became a vehicle for dramatic urgency. The opening scene of the opera, which other performers often treat as a decorative prelude to the plot, became an integral part of a whole, with the stunning Chicago Symphony Chorus “acting” as a collective character despite the lack of a staging. This fast-pace sense of ineluctability, however, was not achieved at the expense of Verdi’s legendary gift for lyricism. Quite the contrary, Muti found an ideal synthesis between the moving beauty of the lyrical moments, mostly associated with Desdemona, the torturing force of the exchanges between Jago and Otello, and the grandiosity of the choral scenes.

Muti was partnered with a superb cast. Tenor Aleksanders Antonenko (Otello) was the revelation of the Salzburg and Rome productions of the opera. The stamina and the color of his voice reinstate the role within a nordic Heldentenor tradition, pace the listeners who, accustomed to Placido Domingo’s legendary performances, would have preferred a more Mediterranean sound. In spite of some lack of naturalness in his singing line, Antonenko’s rendition of the Moor was outstanding, aptly managing the Janus-faced character of the role. The brutal force with which he depicts Otello’s blind jealousy was not the only aspect of the role he developed. Rather, and most likely probably under Muti’s direction, Otello is reveled as a man of visceral instincts, torn apart between his extreme love for his wife, which Antonenko expressed marvelously in a richly nuanced performance of the love duet, and the suspicion of her infidelity.

Krassimira Stoyanova’s Desdemona was a perfect match for Antonenko’s Otello. The Bulgarian soprano, an internationally acclaimed interpreter of the role, provided it with a robust lyrical voice. One is captured by the opulence of her timbre, and mesmerized by the breath-taking floating of her pianissimo tone. which reminds us that Desdemona is not a whining, passive creature, but a forceful individual who is catapulted into a situation of domestic violence which she cannot control. But also in Stoyanova’s case, just like in Antonenko’s, it is not the pure sound that matters. She uses her voice to mould a memorable character. The way she stood Otello’s accusations was impressive for the authority with which Arrigo Boito’s words were delivered. And yet, she endowed the love duet with appropriate sensual touches (Desdemona, in the end, is about to spend her first night of wedding with Otello), and sang the 'Willow song' and the 'Ave Maria' with immaculate resignation.

Jago was portrayed by Italian baritone Carlo Guelfi, who substituted for the announced Nicola Alaimo. Guelfi is a very fine artist, who sang with subtlety and with a clear articulation of the text. He was very effective in bringing out Jago’s utter evilness. Sometimes, however, his voice proved a bit too weak to cope with the CSO’s sheer mass of sound.

A well-deserved standing ovation was tributed to the superb Chicago Symphony Chorus, prepared by Duain Wolfe, and to the excellent Chicago Children’s Choir. The other singers, Juan Francisco Gatell, a youthful and freshly sung Cassio, Barbara Di Castri (Emilia), Michael Spyres, a remarkable Rodrigo, Eric Owens (Ludovico), Paolo Battaglia (Montano), and David Govertsen (A Herald), were given a warm and well-deserved tound of applause.
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