Shakespeare-inspired opera on stage at the Herod Atticus Theater

The much-discussed National Opera production of Verdi’s opera «Otello,» which last year only got as far as its general rehearsal due to an artists’ strike, will finally be staged at the Herod Atticus Theater tomorrow and Thursday as part of the Hellenic Festival events. The opera is directed by Spyros Evangelatos and features conductor Loukas Karytinos. «This production was in gestation a bit longer than usual… We are more mature and settled this year,» said Vangelis Hadzissimos, who alternates in the lead role with Mario Malagnini, at a recent press conference. Musical masterpiece Evangelatos described «Otello» as a «musical masterpiece» and an opera that «touches Shakespeare’s spirit more than any other opera.» «What is important in ‘Otello’ is not what is said but what is implied. We tried to set the production in its own time, where the sets are concerned, in an abstract way. It is not a realistic composition. The direction followed the spirit of the music and was based both on choral parts and on the organization of the leading parts.» The opera’s action, which follows the plot of Shakespeare’s play, takes place on Cyprus. That is where the island’s governor Othello, influenced by the cunning Iago, is eventually consumed by jealousy and strangles his wife Desdemona. The score of «Otello» retains all the conventions of Italian opera and of the romantic era but at the same time goes beyond them, due to its use of incredibly scant means: just a few notes, one turn of the voice and a chord are sufficient for Verdi to describe, with precision, Othello’s constant emotional turmoil and the changes in the atmosphere because of the quick plot developments. «Verdi created his own Othello and the interpreter stays true to what the composition demands. Prose and opera are two different things,» said Mario Malagnini, who also plays Othello. For his part, Alexandru Agache talked about Iago’s «evil personality» and said that his part could easily lead one to an exaggerated interpretation of the role.The sets for the opera were designed by Giorgos Patsas, while Tota Pritsa was responsible for the costumes. The choreography is by Irina Kolioubakina-Akrioti. For ticket information, see Athens Festival on the Venues list on Page 6.

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