Otello Live from the ROH

Time has slipped away and sadly I have neglected the blog and for that I apologise.

After the success of Wolf Works live via the cinema I wanted to see how the opera faired live via the big screen compared to seeing it live in Covent Garden.

I sit in the first interval in a truly uncomfortable seat in the Odeon Maidenhead blown away by the detail and atmosphere of Otello – arguably Verdi’s best operatic work.

The front screen as I entered the cinema at Maidenhead

Based on the play by Shakespeare, Verdi transforms this most human of plays to some of the most beautiful music ever composed.

The cinema is the closest you will get to seeing the opera live. Unlike listening to a recording of the opera, you get the full experience of seeing the opera and it is a feast for the senses, visually, as well a sense of feeling the music. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere rarely would you get the opportunity or have the quality of recording to play at a volume en par with hearing the orchestra and singers live. Cinema is as close as it will get.

This production is also Jonas Kaufmanns debut part at the Royal opera house he plays the Nobel venetian moor to perfection.

Left Iago Right Otello image filched from ROH live on instagram

Originally Verdi wanted to call his version of this Elizabethan play Iago after the Machiavelli villian, played by Marco Vratogna. The cinematic experience allowed us to see the acting of the performers up close. Vratogna was the perfect mix of Bond villian and Right Said Fred to get a boo at curtain call – when playing that character you can only assume that is a good sign to get boo-ed.

The staging was simple black backgrounds that were manipulated to change location and atmosphere. The simplicity was similar to more traditional performances at the Globe which I happen to like.

Traditionally the Shakespearian character is played by a Black actor depicting a black a moor, however the term Moor was also used to describe, in Shakespeare’s time, what we who understand as an Arab or Muslim. It was this root that that this performance chose to depict the lead character. It is worth noting that Venice was extremely multi cultural and traded heavily in Constantinople, now Istanbul, where they had a thriving Venetian community.

Cinematic experience also allows the audience to see the small details of the costumery up close – something you would miss from the rafters in the cheap seats. The attention to detail in both costume and make up adds to the marvel of the performance.

Before Love turns to jealousy Desdemona and Otello Image not mine

The cinematic audience also get to download a free digital programme offering interviews, rehearsals and interactive information.

I feel for the costume and prop departments having to wash the white linens after the final bloody scene.

Overall the experience in the cinema is as close as you will get if you can not be in the opera house itself. The bonuses are the HD up close visual of the performance normally only preserved for those in the front few rows.

This was the last live performance of this season, however you can book now for the 2017/18 season. Check your local Cinema for details.


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