Spectacular set design and exquisitely detailed costuming is front and centre in Pacific Opera Victoria’s season opening production of Otello, matched by the wonderfully elaborate and balanced orchestra led by Timothy Vernon.
The choice to use video footage throughout the play as a visual location cue was smart, easily blending into the otherwise well developed sets. The addition of columns in the later acts create a visual reminder of the convoluted story unfolding, and the raised stage is easily adapted to each scene’s purpose.
Lithuanian Kristian Benedikt has become a master of portraying Otello, and does not disappoint in this production. His range of emotional expression made Otello’s conflicted, disturbed soul easily accessible. Both powerful and vulnerable, he convinced us of all the failings Otello’s jealous mind has.
Despite Benedikt’s consistency, Todd Thomas’ Iago stood out as the central figure of this retelling. Through his powerful voice and captivating presence on stage, he drew the audience into his story for dramatic retellings of his plan and insight into his character. It can be hard to find the nuance in a personification of evil, yet Thomas provided just that. Whether his whispered interactions with Otello or his roughness with his wife, Iago is the bigger-than-life villain this production needed.
Leslie Ann Bradley (Desdemona) was the epitome of the romantic female character. Her voice was sweet and ideal for the production, and she had a wonderful connection with Otello. However, her scenes in the final act dragged a little too long. What she needed was another Otello to play off of and react against, but it was missing by the end.
After such an engaging and fantastic night, I’m looking forward to February and the next POV production: The Barber of Seville.