Sunday Morning Opera: Shakespeare in Opera


Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 8.56.06 PMWilliam Shakespeare died 400 years ago, yesterday. In many ways Shakespeare and opera is a match made in heaven.  The greatest operatic performance I ever saw was when the Met was on tour in Atlanta.  I think it was the late, legendary John Vickers who was to do Otello. He became ill.  Richard Cassilly, my all-time favorite tenor, stepped in, to fill the roll.  The previous evening he had done Tannhauser.  I was still quite new to opera at the time, but even I knew what I was seeing.  As word began to circulate that he was going to do the one-two punch, opera junkies were trying to snag what few tickets remained. Tony Randell even flew in from NYC for the performance.  Of course, I was more interested in the baritone:  Sherrill Milnes.  His Iago was amazing, diabolical, manipulative, and a character who progressed from ambitious to diabolical.  Then there was his Hamlet. (sigh)  Otello is one of those operas which requires a healthy dose of testosterone.

Sherrill Milnes & Placido Domingo

Renée Fleming

Leontyne Price

Robert Merrill

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Sherrill Milnes

John Vickers & Cornell MacNeil

Jussi Björling & Robert Merrill

I am limiting myself to Verdi’s Otello. I love that opera. Next Sunday is a Willow Song smackdown.  I am highly prejudiced when it comes to Otello.  I don’t think the Milnes/Domingo version of Si, pel ciel can be topped, but then I listened to the Björling/Merrill version.  Merrill is amazing.  I must now call my mother and admit that her favorite baritone may have the best rendition of this one.  Ick.  My problem with Robert Merrill is I can’t picture him doing anything dramatic or evil.  He was always such a prankster.  His lower register is amazing!  Watch his Credo.  He just can’t pull it off, rather like Miss Piggy, a total ham!