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Rossini's Otello, Washington Concert Opera

We welcome this review from Ionarts guest contributor Sonya Harway.

Elizabeth Futral
Elizabeth Futral, soprano
For the conclusion of their 2006-2007 season, the Washington Concert Opera performed Rossini's Otello on Sunday night at GW’s Lisner Auditorium. This opera, now usually eclipsed by Verdi's version, is not often performed, and although the WCO does not stage their works, it was compelling to hear such talented singers performing these roles. Bruce Ford, a Rossini veteran, sang a confident Otello, commanding attention and praise from the packed house even when engaged in vocal battle with three other solo tenors. Kenneth Tarver (Rodrigo) really showed his stuff in the Act I duet with Tanner Knight (Iago). Tarver’s high lyric voice was so flexible and clear that one almost wanted Desdemona to reconsider Rodrigo’s proposal. One was so taken with the men that we nearly forgot about the women, Elizabeth Futral (Desdemona) and Claudia Huckle (Emilia), who only appeared on stage about 30 minutes after the opera had begun.

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Rossini, Otello, Bruce Ford, Elizabeth Futral, Philharmonia Orchestra, David Parry
Other Reviews:

Tim Page, A Story That Improves With the WCO's Otelloing (Washington Post, May 1)

Slightly revised 'Otello' (Washington Times, May 1)
While the music itself is not terribly exciting until the third act, there was plenty of beautiful singing, such as Desdemona's coloratura solo at the end of Act II. The most compelling music is in Act III, where Rossini composed some of his most exquisite material. While I personally favor Verdi’s “Willow Song,” Rossini’s version is infused with a beautiful harp solo, played expertly in this production by Marian Rian Hays. And of course, Futral does not disappoint; even without scenery and staging, we were captivated by her impressive range and haunting emotional delivery.

Bravo to the orchestra, who even when they venture from the pit, are often overshadowed by the singers. I got a fright and then a smile out of seeing a dramatic hand gesture come close to knocking the bow out of concertmistress Eva Cappelletti’s hand. Antony Walker deserves praise for not only directing, but also as Artistic Director for choosing this important and infrequently performed work.

Although Berio di Salsi’s libretto disappointed many contemporary scholars, the opera itself was lauded and held in high regard until Verdi’s even more popular version bumped Rossini’s from the repertory 71 years later. There are some good recordings available, such as the Carreras-Stade recording, but based on the standing ovation on Sunday night, my first pick would be the Ford-Futral CD.

The Washington Concert Opera's 2007-2008 season will again feature two operas: Bellini's I Puritani (September 23, 2007) and another Rossini rarety, Bianca e Falliero (April 13, 2008), starring Vivica Genaux.

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