The whole idea when I started this blog was to see the world and be in awe of something, anything. I always thought that meant standing in front of Niagara Falls, or watching the sun set over the Canadian wilderness, both of which I have done in the last 12 months. However last Thursday proved me wrong, that actually it isn’t always vast landscapes or astronomical feats of nature, but sometimes simply the incredible talent of individuals.
I never thought I would liken myself to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, however just as she sat and watched the opening scene of Aida, her eyes filling with tears and her face lit up with the sheer astonishment of what she was witnessing, I sat as the lights flashed across the stage and the roar of voices began.
Those of you who know me, know I love nothing more than tragedy in my movies and books, I get enthralled in the tales of the devious, the inner workings of the deceitful and the power of jealousy. So when I saw Culture Vulture’s had space on their Access All Areas Otello evening at Opera North last week, I jumped at the chance. The thrill of live theatre mingled with the incredible classical musicality of Verdi and you have quite simply handed me my perfect night of entertainment.
Otello is known as one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, the story of deceit and jealously, ending with a strangulation and blood shed. Iago is quite possibly the most revolting of characters, his entire purpose in the play is to ruin Othello, he does so by filling his head with the green-eyed monster and doubt leading him to believe his beautiful devoted wide Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio an arrogant captain.
Ronald Samm as Otello and David Kempster as Iago - Photo credit: Clive Barda
To add even more wonder to the evening I got to meet the incredibly enigmatic and enthralling David Kempster, who played the dastardly Iago. His passion for the opera and his clear love of the Opera North home at Leeds Grand was so inspiring. His presence on stage was mesmerising, to have met him and found him so personable, to then watch him snarl and scheme throughout the whole performance.
As the saying goes behind every great man is a powerful woman and boy is that true in this case it was Elena Kelessidi, who played Desdemona. I cannot begin to describe to you the incredible power of Elena’s voice, to have the force in a single voice to be heard in the very back seat, with a full orchestra and still convey the silent torment of knowing your husband is about to kill you for an adulterous crime you never committed. The love between them at the opening act was so intoxicating i felt myself literally on the edge of my seat, knowing what was about to befall their love.
Ronald Samm as Otello and Elena Kelessidi as Desdemona - Photo credit: Clive Barda
Of course there wouldn’t be a true theatre or opera experience without the rousing sounds of an ensemble cast lightening the mood, especially if there are adorable children involved. Cue the wonderful chorus singing to Desdemona about her beauty and grace. The set added wonderfully to the drama of the piece, the 1940′s costumes were exquisite and the choreography of movement on the sage in both the monologues and the ensemble numbers added to the perfection of the evening. A huge congratulations must also go to the incredible people behind the scenes, Conductor Richard Farnes, Director Tim Albery, Set and Costume Designer Leslie Travers, Lighting Designer Thomas C Hase, Choreographer Laïla Diallo, Fight Director Will Tristram
Elena Kelessidi as Desdemona (centre) and Ann Taylor as Emilia (far right) with the Chorus of Opera North and children’s chorus - Photo credit: Clive Barda
It is rare that I have nothing negative to say, this time is one of those times. A truly wonderful experience and a great way for a newbie to both the world of opera and Shakespeare to begin their love affair. Otello is running at the Leeds Grand until 16th February and can book them easily on the Opera North site and have a look at all of the other amazing performances they have on during 2013.
One of my 2013 resolutions is to go and be in awe of the talent Opera North has to offer.
Let me know what you thought if you have seen Otello or if you are planning to go see it.