Sunday, March 2, 2008

OTELLO was as I predicted, only better. Judging from my car radio (the only opportunity I had to hear it), Botha presented a very unusual interpretation by being so lyrical, and showed great athleticism by doing it so well. Perhaps it's what Bergonzi would have done, if Bergonzi could have done it at all.

True, the repetition of the point about Verdi and the pianississimi in Otello's part grew grating after a while. After one has read it in Botha's Opera News interview, and then heard it a gazillion times in the broadcast patter, one has gotten the point. But the proof is in the performance -- can he really do it, and if he can, how does it come off an interpretation of Otello? My answers: yes; and, a very valid one.

In another Opera News article, Toscanini was quoted as saying that the pianississimi in the OTELLO score shouldn't be taken at face value (recalling what he heard Verdi himself say when he, Toscanini, was playing cello in the world premiere). But for a loud Otello, we have both commercial and private recordings of DelMonaco and (my favorite) McCracken. Botha's was a new approach, and lovely.

Guelfi was much better than I expected. There's a wobble there at times, and no, he doesn't quite sound like he did in that old TRITTICO. But on radio it came off as a good strong Verdi-villain voice: confident up top, and bassy in the low range. Why no applause for the Credo? No longer part of Met performance practice, or did the house audience not think he deserved it?

Fleming ruled. But so, above all, did Bychkov. I know the Met orchestra is the world's greatest, but I've rarely heard them like this! Magnificent playing, and perfect dramatic timing. The opening and Si pel ciel nearly peeled the vinyl off my front seat.

No comments :