Monday, September 21, 2015

A Change Of Color For The Venetian Moor In MET Opera "Otello"

The Moorish Chief by Eduard Charlemont (1878)
"At a recent dress rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera, there was something missing when the Latvian tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko sang the title role of Verdi’s Otello: the stage makeup with names like Indian Red and Otello Brown that opera companies have used for more than a century to darken pale singers playing the part. 'The Met breaks tradition, and I will be white,' Mr. Antonenko shrugged as he was powdered in his dressing room. It was an offhand way of phrasing a seismic shift. That leading opera houses have continued to use blackface into the early 21st century, long after minstrel shows and similar performances have been rejected as racist, may be more surprising to many people than that the practice is now being ended by the Met, after 124 years, for the new production of Otello that will open its 2015-16 season on Monday, Sept. 21. The change comes in a year when the massacre of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, S.C., spurred a national discussion about racism and the power of symbols, and prompted South Carolina officials to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds after years of resistance. And it comes more than a generation after leading theater companies stopped 'blacking up' white actors to play Othello in Shakespeare’s play....Plácido Domingo, the pre-eminent Otello of the 1980s and ’90s, said in an interview that
he had always performed in dark makeup of varying hues — perhaps darkest for the 1986 film version by Franco Zeffirelli — and that he saw it as part of his mission to be vocally and dramatically believable. He quoted, from memory, several lines from a quartet in the opera in which an insecure, jealous Otello sings about his advancing age and the darkness of his face. But Mr. Domingo said that he was very much looking forward to the Met’s new production. 'It will be very interesting,' he said. 'I will really love to see it.'" [Source]