Historic performance of Rossini’s Otello at La Scala

teatro alla scala inside

Rossini is widely known for upbeat tunes such as the William Tell Overture and the playful music of his comic opera, the Italian Girl in Algiers. But Rossini’s talent goes far beyond such wildly popular pieces of music. The music he composed for Otello is wonderfully brooding, melancholy and yet unmistakably the work of Rossini. The tragedy of the story demands an appropriate musical response, and Rossini absolutely comes through.

I fulfilled one of my keen ambitions this summer when I attended the performance of Otello at the Teatro alla Scala. I sat in a box seat (Palco III) alongside a fellow opera lover from Seattle, Washington. We were certainly in for a treat.

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No matter how many times you attend an opera at La Scala, the immense tradition of lyrical opera is overpowering and omnipresent. The very construction of the opera house helps deliver a special feeling of privilege. The box seats that surround the orchestra pit offer a more intimate experience than sitting in the middle of a larger seating section. Add to that the top-notch costumes and scenery, along with talented artists, and there is no doubt you are in the rarefied atmosphere of one of the most prominent theatres in the world for opera, and especially for Italian opera. The debut production of Otello by Rossini featured an ensemble cast, rich with talent and diversity. Certainly, the roles of Otello and Iago are at the core of the story of deception and betrayal that ultimately leads to tragedy. The rich voices of the singers succeeded in maintaining the delicate balance between the inherent trust that Otello places in Iago, and the obvious betrayal that awaits.

The costumes and scenery for the production were lavish and perfectly complemented the production. As opera companies struggle world-wide to maintain the necessary accouterments of the opera, the La Scala production seemed to effortlessly deliver the classical opulence you come to expect with an opera production.

Unfortunately, it is not often that Rossini’s version of this classic Shakespearean story is presented. In fact, it had been more than 100 years since this opera was presented at La Scala. Most companies favor Verdi’s version, which is of course a masterpiece in its own right. It’s wonderful that La Scala chose to give the lovely arias and duets of Rossini’s version their due. Hopefully other institutions will pick up the tune.

For information, see this link: http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/opera-ballet/2014-2015/othello.html

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