The first premiere of Otello, Verdi’s master-piece, opera in four acts with the libretto by Arrigo Boito, written after the tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare, in the innovative and visually attractive direction, thrilled the audience and opera connoisseurs, while the second premiere, with the new cast of singers and different interpretations follows already on Wednesday, 1st February at 19:30 hours.
However, due to the illness of two announced soloists, instead of Kalle Kanttile, the role of Otello will be sung again by Luis Chapa, while instead of Ivana Srbljan, Olga Kaminska will sing the role of Emilia again. New singers will appear in four roles, namely, the role of Desdemona will be sung by Ana Petričević, the first winner of the Zinka Milanov International Competition of Young Opera Singers. It was in 2015 when Ana Petričević filled with enthusiasm both the Competition jury and the audience, winning three prizes, the first prize of the expert jury, the prize of the audience and the Zajc Theatre prize. This will be her debut in the role of Desdemona in her favourite opera. The guest singer Anton Keremidtchiev has sung the role of Iago in world productions for already ten times. Nevertheless, he thinks that there is always space to develop this gigantic role. Giorgio Christian Surian will be Cassio in the second premiere, while Voljen Grbac in the role of Roderigo. As it was in the first premiere, Slavko Sekulić will be Lodovico and Dario Bercich Montano. Maestro Ville Matvejeff will be the conductor.
Marin Blažević is the dramaturg and director, Selma Banich the movement and choreography assistant, Dalibor Fugošić and Alan Vukelić the lighting and stage designers while Sandra Dekanić is the costume designer. Nicoletta Olivieri is the chorus master, Igor Vlajnić the assistant conductor, Anton Kyrylov is the concert master and Katherine Maudline the assistant of the dramaturg and director. The Toretta Children’s Chorus and the Josip Kaplan Young Ladies’ Chorus were prepared by Doris Kovačić and Suzana Štefanić. The Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc Ballet Company also take part in the performance.
In cooperation with the Academy of Applied Arts of University in Rijeka and the mentor, associate professor Aljoša Brajdić, student Ester Miletti created the poster for this performance. A selection of Academy students’ works on the theme of Otello is exhibited in the foyer during the opera performance.
Reruns of the opera on the big stage of the CNT Ivan pl. Zajc are on 2nd, 3rd and 4th February. The opera is sung in Italian with surtitles in Croatian language, its estimated running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one interval after the second and a brief change after the third act.
We express our gratitude to HEP, the Otello sponsor, also to the partners of the project, PIK Rijeka and the Kozlović Winery.
First impressions from the media
Amazing, exciting, passionate, picturesque – such was the last night’s premiere Verdi’s Otello in the dramaturgy and direction of Marin Blažević and the conduction of Ville Matvejeff. (…)
This was an Otello for world stages, Otello that all generations of the audience can love and which, with its brilliant music, imaginative direction, picturesque lighting and top-quality performance leaves a deep impression in every spectator.
Gloria Fabijanić Jelović, HRT Radio Rijeka
Musically and dramaturgically quite challenging and complex, Verdi’s opera Otello was performed by the Rijeka Opera ensemble and reinforced by a number of top soloists, so that next to the Rijeka soloists, the soprano Anamarija Knego as Desdemona and the bass-baritone Giorgio Surian as Iago, the famous Mexican tenor Luis Chapa appeared as Otello. (…)
Blažević’s Otello is an intensive and spectacular performance of the pronounced dramatic charge and innovative direction. What we especially liked was the sitting of the chorus amidst the audience in the stalls. (…)
There is literally no stage set, but there is a brilliant play of light and shadow, a proper stage miracle created by the lighting design.
Edi Jurković, Jutarnji list
Excellent, superb, phenomenal, miraculous… – are the most frequent words that could have been heard after the ovations and the long-lasting enthusiastic applause in the Rijeka CNT Ivan pl. Zajc had stopped and the lights were switched off on the stage after (the first) premiere performance of Verdi’s Otello in the dramaturgy and direction of Marin Blažević and the conducting of Maestro Ville Matvejeff. (…)
Surian’s constant presence on the stage, whether directly under the floodlights or somewhere in the shadow, or there just as a foreboding, could definitely justify the renaming of this Rijeka performance into “Iago”. His monologue in the second act, his “Credo in un Dio crudel”, his addressing the “cruel God” that Boito had added working on Shakespeare’s drama, almost raised the auditorium on their feet and Surian was awarded by a long applause on the open stage.
»Desdemona« could also be a suitable name for this Rijeka staging of Verdi’s master-piece owing to Blažević’s “reading”, even more so the singing and acting performance of the Rijeka soprano Anamarija Knego. Sorrow, fear, despair and the acceptance of fate, but with a ray of hope and resisting to becoming a victim… Anamarija Knego showed all of this with her superior singing and acting performance. No one could have remained indifferent when she sang the “Willow Song”, while after “Ave Maria” there was a loud and long applause in the auditorium expressing the enthusiasm of the audience. Although Blažević had thoughtfully and knowingly “pushed” Otello in the background with his dramaturg and director’s interpretation, the Mexican tenor Luis Chapa has shown and confirmed with his singing and acting why he is invited to the greatest European and world theatres, opera houses and concert halls, also why this is for the eighth time that he has been entrusted with this hard and demanding role, this great honour but also a great challenge and task for each tenor.
Slavica Bakić, Novi list
From the same review by Slavica Bakić:
ALEKSANDAR VODOPIJA, opera connoisseur and lover from Opatija:
This is an altogether brilliant and interesting director’s approach, e new and different viewpoint and, above all, a great performance. The orchestra, as we already have learnt, is amazing, the chorus becoming better and better, while all the praise goes to the children’s and young ladies’ chorus. The soloists were mostly up to the mark. With the clever direction, the stage set was maximally used. A brilliant performance we can be proud of and happy with.
ZORAN JURANIĆ, conductor and music pedagogue:
The performance is beautiful and modern in the right way. Musically it is very, very good with excellent singers; a real music drama so that I am quite happy that Rijeka has such a performance. The stage set solution is something that is often done nowadays, thus I saw a number of performances that use it, yet with much less effect than is present in this performance. However, most importantly, there was nothing that was against music!
DRAŽEN SIRIŠČEVIĆ, general manager of the Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb:
It is quite an amazing performance, another great one by the Rijeka Croatian National Theatre. Since Marin came here I’ve been following all that goes on in this theatre and believe that he is doing quite a brilliant job. But, considering all that I have seen so far, he’s hit the peak with this opera! This performance is very hard to make, be it from music or stage aspect, and Marin, Ville and the complete soloist cast, the chorus, orchestra, all has really been on a very high level. I’m especially fascinated with Marin’s ideas; he made an amazing performance, a real theatre.