International Herald Tribune March 17, 2004
By David Stevens
Verdi: Otello, Paris Opéra Bastille, March 2004
Otello' is all busy-ness
PARIS "Otello," Verdi's late masterpiece now being offered in a new production at the Opéra Bastille, is not a work to be taken on lightly. Tenors capable of holding their own in the vocally and emotionally challenging title role are not readily available and the work is full of musical-dramatic subtleties and needs a firm hand at the musical helm.

That it has in the pit, with James Conlon and the company's orchestra in solid form, but what unfolds on the stage, in Andrei Serban's production and in the sets and costumes of Peter Pabst and Graciela Galan, is frequently disruptive and irrelevant.

The Russian Vladimir Galouzine is the dramatic tenor of the moment for the title role. He has the vocal power to confront it, albeit at times with uneven intonation, but here he is saddled with costume and makeup that exaggerate his status as an alien among the Venetians under his command.

As Iago, Jean-Philippe Lafont is neither in his stage manner nor with his robust baritone destined to be the subtlest of villains, but he was not helped much by the heavy-handed staging of his role, not to speak of the unnaturally red hair produced by the makeup department. Barbara Frittoli's Desdemona, sympathetic and well-sung, did not extract all the role's dramatic possibilities. The German tenor Jonas Kaufmann made an impressive house debut as Cassio.

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