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American Ballet Theatre: Othello 2015

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American Ballet Theatre

Othello 2015
A Dance in Three Acts

At the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 19, 2015

(Read More ABT Reviews)

(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

Othello (1997): Choreography by Lar Lubovitch, Music by Elliot Goldenthal, Scenery by George Tsypin, Costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, Lighting by Pat Collins, Projections by Wendall K. Harrington, Asst. Choreographer: Ginger Thatcher, Performed by Marcelo Gomes as Othello, James Whiteside as Iago, Joseph Gorak as Cassio, Julie Kent as Desdemona, Misty Copeland, as Bianca, the Company as Venetian Dancers and Ensemble, and Children from the JKO School at ABT. Lar Lubovitch’s 1997 ballet is neither a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Othello – The Moor of Venice”, nor a re-imagination of the original Venetian folktale and 1566 short story. Rather the ballet is a collection of images of the characters and story. (ABT Notes)

Othello (Marcelo Gomes) is a Moorish General in the service of the Venetian State. His ensign is Iago.(James Whiteside), and Iago’s wife is Emilia, also handmaiden to Desdemona (Stella Abrera) Cassio (Joseph Gorak) is a young ensign, promoted by Othello to Lieutenant. Bianca (Misty Copeland) is a woman in Cypress who leads a Tarantella dance, to celebrate Othello’s ship’s return from a battle at sea. In the ballet’s Act I, Othello, the Moor, marries Desdemona, and during the wedding party Othello gives Desdemona a rare lace handkerchief as a gift. Iago, who believes Cassio’s promotion was an affront to him, becomes obsessed. Act II includes the ship’s return and the satanic Tarantella. During the dance, Desdemona loses her handkerchief, which finds its way onto Cassio’s clothing. In Act III, Cassio is arrested, and Iago falsely persuades Othello that Cassio seduced Desdemona. Othello, in torment and distress, then takes matters into his own hands, before he learns the true source and sequence of the deceit.

Mr. Gomes has danced Jose Limon’s 1949, one-act, abstract ballet, The Moor’s Pavane, with the Company in Repertory and at Fall for Dance. Julie Kent has often appeared in that Limon, earlier work, as she did tonight, in Lar Lubovitch’s 1997 ballet, as Desdemona. They are a potent duo, compelling in the psychological intensity of jealousy, lust, revenge, and remorse. Ballet Theatre last mounted this ballet in 2007. The choreography shifts from romance to torture, with Desdemona the quintessential battered wife, willful, but weak, yearning, but resigned. With Elliot Goldenthal’s cacophonous, filmatic score, and Lubovitch’s blended, modern-balletic genres, this is not a production the viewer will forget. George Tsypin’s scenery, of shimmering glass and mylar, enhanced with Wendall K. Harrington’s projections of Othello’s ship and port, mesh beautifully with the pulsating, contemporary rhythms. In the Act I wedding, there’s an air of refinement, followed by Act II’s whirling Tarantella, then Act III’s defiant death scenes. Mr. Gomes, at once, tosses and throws Ms. Kent, feigns attacks, curls his head into his arms, lunges a leg upright, twirls in dervish delirium, and prays in prostate angst.

Ms. Kent, in her beleaguered role, seems doomed and destined from the very first scenes. Her rapture swiftly turns to restraint. I thought momentarily of Martha Graham’s 1947, Errand Into the Maze, wishing Desdemona could conquer her demons, as Ariadne had fought and overcame the Minotaur, but that was not Shakespeare’s intent. Ms. Abrera as Emilia, beset by cruelty from Iago, sought solace in the warmth of Desdemona, but treaded carefully, for fear of her own tragic fate. Her dancing was feathery light, as if walking on glass. Mr. Gorak, as Cassio, danced in princely grace, a sophisticated and somewhat detached Lieutenant, one on whom Desdemona leaned for support and fresh air. He was unsuspectedly caught in Iago’s devious design. Mr. Whiteside was a vengeful Iago, balletically as well as psychically, performing with thunderous strength and storminess. And, speaking of whirlwinds, Ms. Copeland, as Bianca, the harlot, who sparks the Tarantella, with legs in spidery shapes, brought interest to her rising star status, with much audience approval. Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes included fine dresses for Venetian dancers at the wedding, raggedy skirts for the women in port, and military-inspired Venetian attire for the men. The Corps was versatile and vivacious in the wedding and port scenes. Ormsby Wilkins made the most of Goldenthal’s atonal, complex score.

Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes
in "Othello"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at