[Met Tour] CID:229240

Hynes Civic Auditorium, Boston, Massachusetts, Wed, April 26, 1972

Review 1:

Review of Ellen Pfeifer in the Boston Globe

Why can't all Metropolitan Opera performances be like the one heard Wednesday night? The opera was "Otello" and, for once, the right singers had been cast in the right roles (and that means good vocalists even in the secondary roles, a personnel feat which only the Met can manage), there had been adequate rehearsal time, and attention paid to the meanings and shading of words and to the corresponding gesture. It was a very moving evening.

The production at the Hynes Auditorium is a new one - the first performances in New York were given about a month ago - with staging and sets by Franco Zeffirelli. Boston was fortunate enough to see it almost in tact - that is with most of the same singers from the original cast including the three principals James McCracken, Sherrill Milnes and Teresa Zylis-Gara substituting for Renata Tebaldi who was to have sung here). Replacing the New York conductor Karl Boehm was Francesco Molinari-Pradelli who was cause for some musical problems throughout the evening.

Zeffirelli has, not altogether successfully, placed "Otello" in very bleak surroundings, mostly massive stone walls and towers and staircases with very dark lighting. This works well with the exception of Act II where Desdemona's garden has been transformed into a masonry cat-walk that appears to be indoors and which is too small to accommodate a large chorus. Placed against this setting are the characters dressed in Peter Hall's rich, brocaded Elizabethan costumes.

The action is vivid - too vivid at times. Zeffirelli had a highly intelligent cast to work with, and the collaboration produced some finely detailed and stunning moments of music theater. There were also some moments where restraints were needed to prevent things from degenerating into the old arm-to-forehead, stagger

and fall syndrome.

James McCracken, the Otello, was perhaps most prone to this sort of thing and that is too bad because it mars an otherwise excellent portrayal of a super-impulsive, hysterical Moor. Vocally, he is impressive - a little constricted in the top of his range where ringing high notes are wanted, but his diction is good and the shading he gives to words subtle and widely varied.

Sherrill Milnes as Iago is a perfect counterpart for McCracken, calculating, sarcastic and dissembling in taking his revenge and also a bit frightened by the evil he is capable of creating.

Together Milnes and McCracken create a really memorable second act during which OteIlo, sitting at his desk, listens to Iago relate his dream, watching in horrified silence as Iago with mock casualness produces the "proof" of Desdemona's infidelity.

Ms. Zylis-Gara was a lovely Desdemona, a spirited and mature young woman instead of the usual adolescent clinging violet. And her singing was beautiful, ample in size and with the requisite transparency and flexibility.

Molinari-Pradelli, taking over for Boehm, couldn't seem to keep orchestra and singers together (the chorus had the most trouble following) and occasionally drowned out the singers altogether.

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