St Mark’s Square in Venice on Wednesday was the spectacular backdrop to a tragic opera in the first open-air performance in 43 years by the famous La Fenice theatre — a new must on the global culture calendar.
La Fenice is staging Italian maestro Giuseppe Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice” — with South Korea’s Myung-Whun Chung conducting La Fenice’s orchestra and choir.
The performance, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, is the first since 1970 and is to be held in the courtyard of the richly decorated Doge’s Palace that takes up one side of the square.
Othello was a popular opera in Venice in the 1960s.
US tenor Gregory Kunde will play Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, and Italian soprano Carmela Remigio will play his spouse Desdemona.
Othello is one of Verdi’s last works and premiered to a rapturous welcome at La Scala in Milan in 1887.
Verdi at the time had not composed an opera since Aida in 1871 and there were doubts about his career.
Othello is set in a town in Cyprus in the fifteenth century when the glory of Venice was at its peak and is filled with references to the great trading empire.
In a Venetian production “the spirit of the place of course plays a role,” producer Francesco Micheli told Italian daily La Stampa.
“All this is taking place in a city suspended on the water, always on the point of falling down, but always miraculously surviving,” he said.
Othello is “a man of the sea who won against his enemies and a storm, but also shows his personal frailty — a Messiah who walks on water but then drowns in a glass of water,” he said.
Othello will be staged again on July 14 and 17, with tickets selling for up to 500 euros ($643) each.
It is the highlight of a music festival in Venice running until August 24.
Myung-Whun Chung will also conduct a performance of Verdi’s Requiem on July 19 also in the Doge’s Palace courtyard.
Jazzman Keith Jarrett will perform on July 16 inside the La Fenice theatre itself.