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Review: Canadian Opera Company’s “Otello” Packs Emotional Punch

By: Curtis Sindrey –

Russell Thomas (centre) as Otello in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Otello, 2019. (Photo: Michael Cooper)

You know that feeling at work when your boss passes you over for a promotion and you vow unrelenting revenge? The Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Otello is that dialled up to 11.

Featuring an all-star cast of seasoned performers including tenor Russell Thomas, who enjoyed success with past COC productions including Norma, and Carmen, in 2016, baritone Gerald Finley, soprano Tamara Wilson, tenor Andrew Haji, tenor Owen McCausland, soprano Carolyn Sproule, bass Onay Kose, and baritone Brandon Cedel, Otello exceeds all expectations with its intense narrative, and stunning visuals.

Anchored by a mesmerizing performance by Thomas in the title role, the production takes you on a journey of true love, revenge, and morality. Otello, a well-respected black military general who faces prejudice and hate due to his marriage to a white woman, Desdemona, suddenly has his well-manicured life turned upside down when he passes over trusted advisor Iago for a promotion and Iago in turn gallops down the warpath in a fit of rage and revenge.

Thomas’ performance oozes sophistication and considering the vocal challenges that a production like Otello throws at a performer, Thomas pulls it off with ease as he brings the title character to life with steadfast devotion, strong vocal delivery, and exceptional stage presence.

Much like the themes within the play itself, the stage design features stately walls and doorways painted in a cold, and unforgiving gray that gives off seriously sinister vibes to the point to where you imagine seeing faces in the walls, which lends to the paranoia and darkness that surrounds the characters themselves.

Overall, the COC’s 2019 version of Otello is a tour-de-force experience with exceptionally authentic performances by the aforementioned Thomas, along with co-star Tamara Wilson. Within the production’s overarching theme of race relations and prejudice that remain timely with today’s divided political climate, Otello may have more to teach a modern audience than meets the eye.

Otello runs until May 21st at the Four Seasons Centre. Buy tickets here.


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