Antonio Pappano's urgent, exquisitely detailed account of Verdi's score is played superbly by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Aided by some clever details from associate director Bill Bankes-Jones, Christine Rice's moving Emilia, Paul Charles Clarke's virile Cassio, and Robert Lloyd's grave, authoritative Lodovico have greater impact than in previous revivals, while Matthew Rose and Andrew Kennedy give confident performances of their brief roles as Montano and Rodgerigo.
Lucio Gallo's Iago is virtuosic but crudely drawn. In the title role, Ben Heppner is sorely tested. No announcement of ill-health was made, so I assume that his exhaustion is down to too brief a holiday after Tristan. As he is a singer whose characterisation is reliant on subtle colouration of text and tone, this compromises the production. Amanda Roocroft, standing in for Renée Fleming as Desdemona, seems likewise tired: her fresh, rosy voice wracked by wide vibrato. That the passion between them is as convincing as it is here is nothing short of extraordinary.
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