The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

World-class tenor for Gaulitana’s Otello

Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 16:11 Last update: about 8 months ago
Kristian Benedikt as Otello
Kristian Benedikt as Otello

Verdi's penultimate opera is no doubt one of the most dramatic, emotive and poignant in the operatic repertoire - a masterpiece of undisputed greatness. Yet, often, productions of Otello fail to enthuse due to the engagement of a tenor who is not perfectly suitable for the title role. Indeed, a heroic and dramatic tenor, who at the same time can carry on the expressive lines which the role also requires, is often difficult to find.

Gaulitana: A Festival of Music has made sure that for its forthcoming production of the Verdi Otello, the cast will include one of the world's most renowned tenors in the role, namely the Lithuanian Kristian Benedikt. The latter has built a reputation as one of the leading international singers of Verdi's Otello, having sang this most demanding role more than 120 times. He has appeared at most of the world's greatest operatic stages, from New York's Metropolitan to London's Royal Opera Covent Garden and to Vienna's Staatsoper, performing under the baton of world-class conductors such as Antonio Pappano, Marco Armiliato, Marcello Votti, Riccardo Chailly, Maurizio Barbacini, Paolo Carigniani, Asher Fisch, Renato Palumbo, Valeri Gergiev, Alexander Vedernikov and with stage directors like Giancarlo del Monaco, Damiano Michieletto, Willy Decker, David Alden, Calixto Bieito, Hugo de Ana, Dmitri Bertman, Eimuntas Nekrošius and Pier Francesco Maestrini.


It is very pertinent that for a decade Benedikt worked with famous Italian tenor Gianfranco Cecchele, paying special attention to the Italian opera and taking over the vocal tradition of Mario del Monaco - arguably, the last real Otello. While Benedikt considers the role as his 'cavallo di battaglia', one which fits naturally his vocality and personality, this has also been acclaimed by the international critics. Thus Switzerland's Basellandschaftliche Zeitung opines that "Kristian Benedikt is an ideal Otello. The tenor is endowed with a powerful voice, precise range and baritonal depth, he poignantly embodies Otello's delusion, vulnerability and violence. He is virtually living Otello". Italy's Il Corriere della Sera states that "of course the effect is powered by the voice of a tenor as Kristian Benedikt (Otello) - beautiful colour, dark and powerful ring, which give extensive guarantees". Austria's Kleine Zeitung of Graz affirms that "engaging Kristian Benedikt proved to be a real gain. The Lithuanian has a dark-timbred Heldentenor that does not only belt out the "Esultate" with brilliant victory, but also lets us hear Otello's tortured soul. Benedikt is endowed with almost never-ending vocal resources, capable of enormously passionate attacks, recalling the legendary Ramón Vinay with his highly intensive, nervous outbursts of dark glowing sound... He uses his vocal powers to highlight certain particular moments of the role, while often singing mezzoforte and piano to reveal Otello's inner tremble."

For the Gaulitana's Otello, Benedikt will be leading a cast made up of top international and Maltese singers, together with the Gaulitanus Choir. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (leader: Marcelline Agius) will be in attendance under the baton of Gaulitana artistic director, Colin Attard. Enrico Castiglione will be the stage director.

The opera, scheduled on Saturday, April 25th, 2020, will highlight the 14th edition of Gaulitana: A Festival of Music - a month-long musical bonanza running between March 28th and April 26th and presenting daily events in several genres in various venues around Gozo. The operatic production itself is enveloped within an intensive Opera+ Weekend which will conclude the festival. The festival is supported by the Gozo Cultural Support Programme of Arts Council Malta and the Ministry for Gozo.

The Gaulitana Otello forms part of an artistic collaboration with the Teatru Manoel which will also see the production of Shakespeare's drama later on in the year and Rossini's homonymous operatic version in March, both at the Manoel. The Gaulitana Verdi production is being held at the Aurora Theatre in Gozo. Booking is open online on or through the theatre's box office (+356 79045779). In view of the Gaulitana-Manoel collaboration, a limited number of rebated tickets for both operatic productions can also be obtained from either theatre until February 16th.

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