‘Otello’ may not get you panting, but the glorious Winspear surely will
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St. Oct. 31 and Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. From $49.
The opening night of the Dallas Opera’s production of Otello was a joyous occasion all around. Of the 2,200 ticketholders, you could count on one hand the number of men not in tuxes and women in less-than-spectacular evening gowns. They turned out in full regal drag for the debut of the Winspear Opera House, making the celebration as much about Dallas itself as what took place onstage.
And that’s probably a good thing.
The Winspear deserves its accolades. Sure, there are still some small punch-list items (hall doors that don’t stay open, a missing doorknob here and there), but the sound, the styling, the glamour — it’s all there. Everything got applause on opening night: The curtain, the playing of the national anthem, the recession of spectacular chandelier into the ceiling.
Everything, that is, except the production.
Whatever possessed the stage director, Tim Albery, and the scenic designer, Anthony Baker, to launch the new opera house — with its "Winspear Red" glass, and the DO’s own "Seeing Red" season motto — with the monochromatic cement monstrosity that was this set? Greys, whites, blacks; steely lines and hard surfaces … this is not the ambiance you want at the christening of a new opera house. You barely want it at the christening of an ocean liner.
At least Thomas C. Hase’s moody lighting provided some dramatic momentum, which was often lacking in the baritone of Lado Ataneli as Iago. Ataneli’s version of villainy is more Seuss-y Grinch than Shakespearean: He’s all clenched fists, sneered lips and cumbersome lurking; if he had a moustache, he would twirl it.
You can’t fault the acting (or singing) of Clifton Forbis as Otello, Alexandra Deshorties’ lilting, luscious soprano as Desdemona or the dashing Sean Panikkar as Cassio.
Verdi’s opera itself is less about jealousy occasioned by insecurity than it is concerned with vengeance extracted through treachery, and Act 4 stretches on too long. The music, well-played in the acoustically striking hall by Graeme Jenkins’ orchestra, simply doesn’t have as much fire as his more popular works; I don’t recall a single aria being interrupted by spontaneous applause.
And yet Otello is, its defects aside, still an unmissable event, for its inauguration of the Winspear. Go to experience the hall, and to appreciate how far the Dallas Opera has come from Fair Park. Trust me: It’s more than two exits off I-30. It is a world apart.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 30, 2009.
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