Monday, August 28, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

In the first of their two appearances at this year’s Enescu Festival (the second is tomorrow, Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony) Zubin Mehta conducted Maggio Musicale Fiorentino forces in a concert performance of Otello, one of the greatest of operas, Verdi and his librettist Boito working musical wonders with Shakespeare’s Othello.

Having been presented with the Romanian President’s Commander of the Order of Merit, Mehta then launched into the opera’s tempestuous opening with a flick of his baton, immediately suggesting that this would be a thought-through reading in which everything that followed could be related to that initial burst of energy – and so it proved – and also that the Florence-based Choir & Orchestra were at a high level of preparation, such as resounding choruses and flawless trumpets in Act III to welcome visiting dignitaries. Fabio Sartori introduced himself and Otello with a confident “Esultate!” and well-aimed high notes, with later in Act I some sweet and soft singing in honour of Desdemona, with Anastasia Bartoli proving to be vocally radiant. Before such love-duetting, conspiracies between others had started, those interactions vibrantly conveyed in music that tells the story so well on its own terms (the audience was offered a Romanian translation of Boito’s Italian on a screen behind and above the chorus, onto which, and also around it, were projected vivid graphics). Luca Salsi was suitably black-voiced as Iago plots malevolently against Otello, feeding his suspicious side; confrontations between the two were thrilling, with plenty of theatrical tension in Act II as Iago’s scheming takes hold, through which in Act III Otello challenges (the wholly innocent) Desdemona and her fidelity, making her Act IV ‘Willow Song’ a soul-baring thing of wonder. The denouement approaches, so too Otello (sinister double basses, a masterstroke by Verdi) who must right the wrong that he believes his wife has made (as fuelled by the evil Iago) … he kills her, and then himself…

Throughout, this was a compelling and revealing performance, and enjoyed excellent picture and sound.

FABIO SARTORI Otello (tenor)
ANASTASIA BARTOLI Desdemona (soprano)
LUCA SALSI Iago (baritone)
JOSEPH DAHDAH Cassio (tenor)
ADRIANO GRAMIGNI Lodovico (bass)
ELEONORA FILIPPONI Emilia (mezzo-soprano)
MATTEO MANCINI Un Araldo (baritone)

LORENZO FRATINI chorus master
NONA CIOBANU, PETER KOŠIR multimedia directors