Magazine article Opera Canada

Metropolitan Opera

Magazine article Opera Canada

Metropolitan Opera

Article excerpt

Does Bartlett Sher have a double-dealing alter ego? There's the Sher

whose Tony Award-winning revival of The King and I is still playing to sold-out houses at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater--the one whose loving, invigorating direction seems completely in tune with Rodgers and Hammerstein and their latter-day Broadway successors. Then there's the other Sher--the one who at a next-door neighbo r of the Beaumont's, the Metropolitan Opera, specializes in minor-league discordance. His productions aren't eccentric enough to incense the conservative Met audience; but whether the composer is Rossini or Donizetti or Offenbach, he just doesn't seem to "get" ottocento opera. Only with a contemporary American work, Nico Muhly's Two Boys, has this lesser Sher seemed comfortably at home. And with his latest Met venture--Otello, his first stab at Verdi--he's almost wholly at sea. On its surface, typically, it's not so bad as to foment outrage; but, again typically, it had me thinking: Does Bart Sher even like opera?

In the weeks preceding the season-opening premiere, the company had announced, to ample flutter from the press, that Sher's production would show an Otello stripped of the traditional darkened skin--in other words, without the trait that very clearly, in both Shakespeare and Verdi/ Boito, identifies him as an outsider. That might have worked had Sher devised a theatrically potent alternative--religion, say, as I've seen handled very effectively. What's left of Otello here, though, is a relative cipher, little distinguishable from anyone else onstage in Catherine Zuber's 19th-century military garb. General Manager Peter Gelb's assertion that the new staging would focus on questions of "position and power" (the New York Times's paraphrase) just didn't come across; and Aleksandrs Antonenko, an experienced, vocally sturdy Otello, couldn't compensate dramatically for what he was being denied. …

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