Otello another triumph for the APO

The cast of this years Opera in Concert provided singing that was intelligent, perceptive and electrifying.

Otello by Giuseppe Verdi
The Trusts Community Foundation Opera in Concert
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in association with New Zealand Opera andThe Freemasons NZ Opera Chorus
Conductor, Giordano Bellincampi
Auckland Town Hall
July 29

Shakespeare’s Othello has a number of complex and interrelated themes but Verdi’s opera is more closely focused on the nature of love, jealousy and envy. The singers have to develop the characters with a mixture of acting and singing conveying not only the narrative but also their moral dilemmas.

The cast of this year’s APO concert version had just the right mix of qualities to convey all the drama and emotions with singing that was intelligent, perceptive and electrifying.

It was Scott Hendricks as Iago who gave the most nuanced performance. He was set apart from the other male singers by appearing in his tails with a normal tie rather than bow tie.

His voice ranged from smooth-tongued elegance through to a sharp, hectoring tone. He was able to be flattering one moment and caustic the next, expressing the way he was infected by the poison of jealousy.

His utterance of “I believe in a cruel God” was matched by his behaviours as he skulked and manoeuvred around the stage, the embodiment of evil and treachery.

As Otello Simon O’Neill did not convey the same level of subtlety as Hendricks but from his dramatic entry to the fateful close he dominated the stage with his powerful stage presence and strong commanding voice capturing all the emotional and political turmoil of the character.

Maria Luigia Borsi as Desdemona was riveting with her singing of “Mio superbo Guerrier” expressing her love and admiration while her “Willow Song” was sung with a soulful sense of nostalgia as though her life were draining away. The orchestra at this point added a sweet dimension which seemed to only add to her misery.

Sarah Castle’s was a compelling Emilia exquisitely expressing her conflicted feelings for Desdemona and her husband, Iago while James Egglestone was an ardent and vulnerable Cassio.

Giordano Bellincampi’s conducting of the APO ensured that the orchestra was always able to provide just the right level of dramatic and emotional background for the singers. The use of horn players stationed around the Town Hall to announce the arrival of the Turks was a masterful way of expanding the performance.

The Freemasons NZ Opera Chorus was splendid and was cleverly included within the performance with some of its members being chatted up by the cast and becoming the guard of honour for Otello to inspect.

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