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Production reviews (4)

12 - 24 Jul 2022
Otello, Verdi,  
Royal Opera House5 Performances
11 December HARTSTONOpera review: Otello at Royal Opera House
He was widely admired as the grand old man of Italian opera but had not produced a new work since Aida some 15 years earlier. Yet Otello features some of his most powerful music, bursting with impressive originality and energy. With a very strong cast and Antonio Pappano conducting, Covent Garden does glorious justice to this fine work.
10 December 2019bachtrack.comMark Pullinger“Esultate!” Kunde's Otello impresses at Covent Garden
It’s good to have expectations confounded. For much of his career, American tenor Gregory Kunde specialised in bel canto repertoire, his light, flexible voice ideal for Rossini with easy top notes that also meant he could tackle Berlioz’ stratospheric tenor roles like Énée and Benvenuto Cellini with distinction. In recent years though, Kunde has taken an unexpected lurch into heavier repertoire. I was unconvinced by his Manrico and approached his Otello in this first revival of Keith Warner’s production at The Royal Opera with trepidation, having missed him when he played second fiddle to Jonas Kaufmann in 2017.
10 December MillingtonOtello review: Coarse tone is right for a jealous, dangerously volatile man
tepping into Jonas Kaufmann’s shoes for this revival of Keith Warner’s 2017 production of Otello is a tough call for Gregory Kunde. But though his voice may lack the lustrous sheen of Kaufmann’s, he has a command of his own (he’s no newcomer to the role) and the occasional coarsening of tone is congruent with his character portrayal. This Otello is more dangerously volatile, more emotionally unstable than Kaufmann’s. Just as Boris Kudlicka’s sets — a handsome study in chiaroscuro tinged ominously with blood-red as the murders are plotted at the end of Act 3, and dramatically lit by Bruno Poet — point up the emotional extremes between which Verdi/Boito’s Otello staggers, so Kunde, his body contorted, eyes ablaze, painfully depicts a man broken by his inability to achieve psychic harmony. Ermonela Jaho’s Desdemona, by contrast, floats her high notes in rapt pianissimos. She rarely rises above mezzo-piano but Antonio Pappano’s tender accompaniments provide sensitive support. Pappano marshals his orchestral and choral forces to deliver textures teeming with detail in perfect accord with Warner’s psychologically penetrating and thrillingly theatrical production. Carlos Álvarez is a nuanced Iago and young British tenor Freddie de Tommaso impresses as Cassio.
7 Feb - 2 Mar 2017
Adriana Lecouvreur, Cilea,  
Royal Opera House7 Performances
08 February 2017bachtrack.comDavid KarlinGerald Finley's exquisite melancholy suffuses Covent Garden's Adriana Lecouvreur
Gerard Finley was a different Michonnet from others I’ve seen – more expansive, less of a character actor – but the beauty of his velvet timbre and his lieder singer’s attention to the nuance of the text made him intensely watchable. Each time he portrayed one of the scenes where Michonnet finds himself incapable of declaring his true love to Adriana, I felt the man's wrenching melancholy; his unheeded advice to Adriana not to meddle in the affairs of the great was heartbreaking.Tenor voices are a matter of taste, and I have to admit that in this kind of repertoire, I prefer a darker, more rounded timbre to Brian Jagde’s bright, clear tones. But Jagde tackled the role of the dashing Maurizio with enthusiasm and improved steadily through the evening, at his best in the boisterous relation of his war heroics, “Il russo Mèncikoff”. On the softer side, he was effective in the tenderness of the closing duets as Adriana dies of poison.As ever at Covent Garden, supporting roles were strongly cast, most notably Bálint Szabó’s powerful bass as the Prince. Under Daniel Oren, the Royal Opera Orchestra turned in a solid performance – lacking, perhaps, in the last degree of Puccini-esque sweep and lustrous string timbre, but well paced and sprightly.This production of Adriana Lecouvreur isn't the star vehicle that I'm sure some would like, but it’s a solid, watchable, well put together and well performed production of an opera I love.