Winter brings gray skys and rain–at least in Vancouver. The sun shone today for the Met Opera broadcast, at the local movie house, of Otello. As did the sun last week for L’Elisir d’Amore, and before that for The Tempest. For the best part of winter is opera.
Watched with joy the Vancouver Opera’s live performance of La Boheme and look forward to the Pirates of Penzance in a week or so. Great as opera is on the large screen, nothing beats the thrill of live music filling a hall with sound.
To date all performances have been memorable–some for the wrong reasons. The Tempest will stick in my mind longest. How often do you get to see an opera conducted by the composer. And featuring modern, new music to a very old story. Plus beautiful & handsome singers. The Tempest was truly a great production that vindicates passion for opera.
La Boheme from Vancouver Opera was memorable in spite of the fact that I have seen the opera so many times that I cannot count. Somehow they managed to make it fresh, credible, and a musical delight.
Today’s Otello will remain in my mind but for a bad reason. Rene Flemming was marvellous. Iago was the star of the show; his conclusion la morta e nulla lies close to my belief although the rest of what he sung is scary.
But Johan Botha? It is just too much to have a white South African trying to play a black man. Surely there are black opera singers who can do this more credibly?
I have always though that Otello, both the Verdi and Shakespeare versions, are the stupidest around the theater. And Johan Botha appears to be stupid on and off stage. He was wooden in the interview and rather embarrassing. My opera party members joked about South African intelligence on and off stage.
But the real issue is that in this day and age we expect verismo from our opera. And Johan just should not be allowed on a stage covered by a camera. As one of our party remarked:”He is so fat and ugly, you just wonder how the sound comes out. Those cheeks, hanging on his chest, hardly moved. And he cannot move. It was disgusting.”
Hence my plea to the Met: ban fat singers, regardless of how well they sing. They just leave us uncomfortable; squirming in our seats in discomfort as they comport their vast bulk slowly across the stage. I for one would prefer a lesser singer of great visual appeal and acting ability. This is a movie afterall. We go for visceral pleasure: visual, aural, and emotional. Those fatties just spoil it by bringing such mass to dispel the fantasy.
Of course we will go to the rest of this seasons opera. We have spent thousands on tickets. It is fun to enjoy; but equal fun to joke and criticise performance like today’s Otello which is just forgettable or at best memorable for the wrong reasons.