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Verdi’s Otello
Opera Company of Philadelphia
Sept. 30-Oct. 2010

Bad guys are the most fun when they sing like Mark Delavan, the Iago in the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s new production of Otello. Iago’s menace comes from the pleasure of revenge; the power of enjoying another’s weakness. Delavan understands and doesn’t rely on stereotype. He has a gorgeous baritone. He sets the snares for his love- torn employer. He spits out jealous asides. Opening night, Iago rolled onstage at the Academy of Music in a wheelchair because of a newly repaired meniscus. Knee pain or not, Delavan’s ran rings around everyone else in the excellent production. He was the schemer who believes life is mired in mud but enjoys playing in it.

If only Clifton Forbis’s Otello had been as persusasive. Forbis is one of two tenors (the other is Alan Glassman) to share the company’s assignment. The acting was sensitive and aptly contradictory in its emotional range. But the vocalism did not match up; nor hold the attention until the Moor’s pent-up jealousy began to rage in the later acts. Norah Amsellem’s soprano as Desdemona manages in power what it lacks in tonal beauty. Her acting somewhat compensates but the couple’s chemistry did not persuade. Margaret Mazecappa was the stoniest Emilia observed in some time, until that is she accused Otello of his crime. Cassio looked the part of a good soldier but the voice did not project.

Elizabeth Braden’s chorus was a giant success, resonant and thrilling. Maestro Corrado Rovaris’ drew from the pit most of Verdi’s demands and refinements.

The creative team worked theatrical magic; Otello’s set and production values had a splendor matched by this Iago’s pleasure in evil.


Written by Lesley Valdes

October 11, 2010 at 12:38 am

Posted in Opera, Shakespeare

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