Otello opened at Vancouver Opera Festival with impressive sets and performances


The first season of Vancouver’s Opera Festival opened with Otello, one of the most popular and well-loved operas performed today.

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Inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival has stunning line-up


Vancouver Opera’s first Vancouver Opera Festival is featuring three main shows, Otello, Dead Man Walking, and The Marriage of Figaro. The full three-week festival has a lot of exciting shows going on, so check it all out below.

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Superb singers and stunning designs feature in this year’s exciting Vancouver Opera Festival


Three dazzling new opera productions are at the core of the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival, April 28 to May 13, 2017.

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POV opens their 2015/16 season with a captivating Otello


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.

Act 3: Iago (Todd Thomas) promises Otello (Kristian Benedikt) that he will provide proof of Desdemona's infidelity: Otello is to hide and listen as Iago gossips with Cassio. Image courtesy of Pacific Opera Victoria

Act 3: Iago (Todd Thomas) promises Otello (Kristian Benedikt)
that he will provide proof of Desdemona’s infidelity:
Otello is to hide and listen as Iago gossips with Cassio.
Image courtesy of Pacific Opera Victoria

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.

Verdi’s Otello opens Pacific Opera Victoria’s new season


Pacific Opera Victoria (POV) opens the 2015-16 season at the Royal Theatre in Victoria,October 15 through 25, with a company premiere of Verdi’s OTELLO.   Starring Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt in the title role, this production also showcases American opera singer Todd Thomas as Iago and Canadian soprano Leslie Ann Bradley as Desdemona.

A faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, the opera is acclaimed as much for Arrigo Boito’s masterful libretto as for Giuseppe Verdi’s astonishing score.  Otello is an illustrious general with an adoring wife, until Iago sets out to destroy him and tear his marriage apart. With insinuation and lies, malevolence and false kindness, Iago plays on his general’s vulnerability.  The tragedy unfolds inexorably, and a love born in hope spirals into violence and desolation.

POV Artistic Director Timothy Vernon says of this production, “We are stepping beyond what looks like repertoire normally considered appropriate for a company of our size. A score of immense size and sophistication, Otello calls for three extraordinary leading performers, a huge choral component, and Verdi’s biggest orchestra.”

Otello is notorious for being one of the most difficult roles in opera. It demands a dramatic tenor with a heavy, heroic sound, strong top notes, great stamina, and impressive acting ability. It is demanding physically, vocally, and emotionally.  The role of Iago also requires a singer of great stamina and ability, and an accomplished actor that can lift the character beyond a single dimension.  POV presents two international singers who know these roles well.

Kristian Benedikt is one of the world’s reigning Otellos, having performed the role inMunich, St. Petersburg, Vilnius, Modena, Cagliari, Ekaterinburg, Basel, Stockholm, and Santiago, and with future engagements planned in Montreal, Beirut, and Savonlinna, Finland.  This production marks his staged opera debut in Canada.

Todd Thomas has performed the role of Iago throughout the U.S. and last season brought power and anguish to the role of Alberich in POV’s Das Rheingold.

Leslie Ann Bradley, who dazzled POV audiences as Micaëla in Carmen in 2012 and as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro in 2014, returns to POV for her role debut as Desdemona.

A co-production with Opéra de Montréal, OTELLO is staged by Glynis Leyshon, and the Victoria Symphony is conducted by POV Artistic Director, Timothy Vernon.  Designer Peter Hartwell is creating a set for Victoria’s 1400-seat Royal Theatre that will expand for performances in Montreal’s 3000-seat Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier early in 2016.

Pacific Opera Victoria’s 2015-16 season celebrates theatre reborn as opera, and includes early 2016 productions of Rossini’s frothy The Barber of Seville and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Subscription packages are available now.  For more information, contact Pacific Opera Victoria at 250-385-0222 or visit www.pov.bc.ca.