Otello, Glyndebourne

It's Hall or nothing for the Moor

Anyone still wondering why the Kirov Opera were given such a rough ride during their disastrous Verdi season should get themselves down to Glyndebourne to experience first-hand what happens when a seasoned theatre director – Sir Peter Hall – and a fine cast willing to explore, to question, to use their heads as well as their larynxes, get to grips with a seasoned text. Opera as grown-up theatre is what happens. Theatre that thrills not on account of its "effects" or vocal fireworks – though heaven knows there are plenty of those on display – but rather on account of its understanding.

Hall's staging of Verdi's Otello is, on the surface of it, a solid, well-crafted, well-designed (John Gunter), well-cast exposition of a great piece. And yet it is more, much more than that. Underpinning everything is this burning desire to uncover the reasons why things are said and done. We call it subtext. There's a lot to be said for it.

Barely a week ago, the Kirov tackled the self-same opera and in a production of incomprehensible pretension and silliness, a handful of "star" performers went through the motions of being "operatic" without ever really understanding who they were or how they might relate to each other. Emotions were worn like achievement medals. Actions were meaningless.

Imagine, then, the impact of coming from that to a production in which every line of text – and the reasons for it – were taken account of. Notwithstanding the period update to Napoleonic times – a period where the emotions were as well-trussed as the clothes – Hall's staging may look traditional but it's as fresh and unhackneyed and powerful as any I've seen.

At the heart of it is Iago. "An honest man is a paltry actor," he says. Anthony Michaels-Moore is a terrific actor and a damn fine singer, too. His Iago is lethal because he's charming. You don't see so much as a flicker of the wickedness until he is alone. And even then, his malignancy is offset by his physical nonchalance. Lounging back in Otello's chair, his feet up on the desk, he smugly concludes his credo, certain in the belief that life's a bitch and then you die. Dog will eat dog. And after death – nothing.

The ensuing scene with Otello has tremendous tension, Iago constantly watching his prey but careful not to be seen to be watching. In Act III, he literally pulls his victim together at the point of imminent collapse. Heaven forfend that anything should compromise the dénouement of his deception: the arrival of Cassio (the excellent Kurt Streit) with that handkerchief. God really is in the detail of this production.

David Rendall is probably giving the performance of his life as Otello. Time and again, his authority is cruelly undermined by his vulnerability. He really conveys that, not just physically but in his singing. The middle of his voice may now be showing signs of wear and tear, but here's an Otello who doesn't live only for the big notes, who doesn't fudge the difficulties – like the rapt ascents of the love duet, the final line, "Venus is aglow", delivered pianissimo for a change, in his most tender head voice. His Desdemona is Susan Chilcott, in whom we have an international star in the making. Together, they make each phrase of that love duet so precious as to dramatically heighten the explicit brutality to come. There's a brilliant stroke from Hall in the final scene, where Otello's hands reach towards the throat of the sleeping Desdemona only to be halted by the music underscoring their first kiss. For a moment or two, we glimpse once more the tenderness of what might have been.

Conductor Richard Farnes could teach the Kirov's Valery Gergiev a thing or two about how to pace this piece. From the moment that the heavens open and Glyndebourne's small but wonderfully incisive chorus signal the return of their conquering hero, this, their first Otello, is a gripping and memorable occasion.

To 25 August (01273 813813)

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower