In the career of an Opera singer, the genesis of a character is not immediate, and the maturation of a role can mobilize a lifetime, not just a voice. The human voice is the most delicate and difficult instrument that exists and is subject to a thousand troubles, day after day. Thus, the choice of this or that repertoire, or this or that specific role, can also damage it if vocally inappropriate and/or dealt with at the wrong age or at the wrong time. For these reasons, lyrical singers are combining the various roles throughout all the duration of their careers, addressing some of them first, and not rising to others before maturity. Over time, the voice is changing, evolving. That of today is no longer that of yesterday, and not yet that of tomorrow; top professionals are fully aware of that. This is the case of the tenor Roberto Alagna who, in the full plenitude of his career, is getting ready to tackle the role of Otello by Verdi in which he will make his stage debut at the ‘Chorégies d’Orange’ in August 2014.
This 27th June 2014, in the historical Pleyel Concert Hall (Paris), he performed it almost entirely, in a concert version, with a great intensity, alongside soprano Inva Mula as Desdemona and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Iago. The National Orchestra of Île de France was conducted by Maestro Riccardo Frizza, who led the score in full compliance with the philological tempo, leading the singers in a careful reading of the score to the safe shores of success. Indeed, in a concert, a very personal interpretation of the conductor may always be detrimental to the artists: as always in these cases, even if they have the normal and legitimate opportunity to rely on their score at their stand, they are alone on stage and more exposed – without any safety net, than when they are in costume in a stage set. Therefore, a concert cannot be directed nor dealt with as a stage performance would be, but should be performed with both good sense and good taste. These two prerogatives characterized this Pleyel’s evening, eagerly awaited by a wide and cheering audience.
Going back to what was mentioned above, the great Roberto Alagna tackled the program (consisting of large excerpts from Otello’s role) with a mature voice, a flexible emission, clear and powerful, and great expressive and vocal skills, but sacrificing, because of the “concert” nature of the performance, part of his propensity for actively acting on stage. Far from being intimidated by the role, but rather particularly enjoying the most dramatic scenes of jealousy and the tragic ending, Alagna/Otello took over the successive parts of the program, also highlighting the most intense scenic passages. He demonstrated, if needed, he had reached the proper maturity to address this role at the appropriate moment of his career, well and sharp armed. A role which has been sung by decades of successive famous and glorious tenors and of which he will certainly offer a very personal and memorable performance on stage.
The tenor was accompanied by a delicate Inva Mula, always at the dizzying altitudes that the role of Desdemona demands to its performers, earning a great personal success, especially in the divine and famous “Ave Maria” aria. Cool and experienced, the baritone Hvorostovsky was as Iago vocally robust and as treacherous as one could be. As mentioned above, the concert was preceding the presentation of Verdi’s masterpiece in the beautiful ‘Theatre antique’ in Orange, on 2nd and 5th August 2014. It has admirably foreshadowed the magic Otello to which the French-Sicilian tenor will certainly give life and soul. We are looking forward to this thrilling event with great anticipation.
Cannot imagine Alagna as Otello. He has recently struggled through much less demanding roles.