— Pamela Roth
Thirty-five years ago, Timothy Vernon found his baby.
He didn’t expect the Pacific Opera Victoria to reach the level of professionalism it is today, but he’s thoroughly delighted that it has.
According to Vernon, subscriptions for the opera are way up this season when subscriptions for other companies across the country are down.
Vernon is thrilled to be kicking off another exciting season with the premier of Gieuseppe Verdi’s Otello Oct. 15.
“Otello has a fabulous opening scene — there’s this enormous all-engulfing storm and it involves chorus and rituals and orchestra parts. It’s loud and full of brilliant light and dark effects,” said Vernon, adding the production will have between 40 to 50 people on stage and another 40 to 50 people in the orchestra.
A faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, the production stars Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt in the title role, and also showcases American opera singer Todd Thomas as Iago and Canadian soprano Leslie Anne Bradley as Desdemona.
Otello is an illustrious general with an adoring life, until Iago sets out to destroy him and tear his marriage apart. With intuition and lies, malevolence and false kindness, Iago plays on his general’s vulnerability. The tragedy unfolds inexorably and a love born in hope spirals into violence and desolation.
According to Vernon, Otello is notorious for being one of the most difficult roles in opera, and demands a dramatic tenor with a heavy, heroic sound, strong top notes, great stamina and impressive acting ability — all of which Benedikt delivers.
Rehearsals for Otello started about two weeks ago. Unlike theatre, the singers must arrive with all their lines already memorized.
As the opera’s artistic director, Vernon is responsible for selecting the three productions this year. When deciding what to perform, he traces the history of the repertoire in the company and develops a feel for what the audience is ready for. With 400 years worth of opera, Vernon has plenty of pieces to choose from.
“I like to show people how wonderful the creativity is of these great composers and how infecting they can be and entertaining as well. When you get a score such as Otello, at the absolute peak of his (Verdi) creativity, that’s an astonishing thing,” he said, adding the drama, lighting, set and costumes are all important for a production.
“It’s (opera) very special. You have to go in, sit down, open your ears, your heart, be ready for music and be ready to be engaged. Opera is very involving.”
Otello runs Oct. 15 to 25 at the Royal Victoria Theatre. Tickets range between $25 and $135.
Other performances this year include Rossino’s frothy, The Barber of Seville and Britten’s A Misdummer Night’s Dream. For more information call 250-385-0222 or visit pov.bc.ca.