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Wichita Grand Opera review: Passion and power in ‘Otello’ voices

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, at 2:11 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, at 6:35 p.m.

Wichita Grand Opera opened its eleventh season on Saturday evening with a performance of Guiseppi Verdi’s “Otello” in the Century II Concert Hall. This large-scale opera, produced in the classic tradition, is a great work with which to begin a season. An English translation of the libretto above the stage allowed the audience to follow the subtleties of the plot, and lavish costumes enhanced the production.

The opera opens on a quay with the cast looking seaward in fear that Otello’s ship is in danger. Use of lighting effects here made the staging seem two dimensional, rather than heighten a sense of realism. The power of the music alone easily sets the scene. The chorus sang well here, as they did throughout the evening.

Martin Illiev as Otello, the governor of Cyprus, captured all the gravitas and drama of the title role, but his powerful voice was not always well centered. He communicated the torment of his character’s doubt strongly. Zvetelina Vassileva, as Desdemona, portrayed Otello’s tragically abiding wife. Her voice had a glowing passion to it and she delivered the emotion of her role beautifully.

Otello and Desdemona are ripped asunder by the dark and conniving Iago, played with energy and polish by Michael Nansel. Nansel’s voice is well proven on the Century II stage and this production gave the audience another opportunity to appreciate his talent. Dustin Peterson as Otello’s captain, Cassio, sang with a clear, projecting tone and dispatched his earnest role strongly. Michael Morrow as Roderigo and Charles Turley as Montano did their parts justice. Sarah Kraus’ Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s lady in waiting, was engaging and believable; her voice is powerful and attractive.

The orchestra, well lead by Martin Mazik, suffered occasional pitch discrepancies in their rendering of this demanding score. Mazik maintained excellent coordination of all forces involved.

Wichita Grand Opera will continue its season with operatic productions in Wichita, Salina and McPherson, and by hosting the Russian National Ballet Theater.

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