The critics are pouring praise over Opera på Skäret’s production of Otello after the two premieres on July 26 and 27. The singers and orchestra, as well as direction and scenography, have all been lauded.
According to Dagens Nyheter’s critic Nicholas Ringskog Ferrada-Noli, Otello is “one of the potentially strongest opera experiences. This requires singers who are both vocally talented and can act with depth, as well as an orchestra that can capture all the music’s nuances. That is the case with this production under the direction of William Relton.”
Ferrada-Noli points out the special chemistry between Michal Lehotsky’s Otello and Charlotta Larsson’s Desdemona: “…their love feels so authentic that this writer was moved to tears right from their duet in the first act. Larsson sings astonishingly well and Lehotsky is one with her role.” The third principal singer, Ole Jjörgen Kristiansen, is described as “the dreadful Iago with bravura, slippery as an eel and masterfully manipulative.”
Dagens Nyheter’s reviewer describes Cordelia Chisholm’s scenography as congenial, and adds that the orchestra, under the direction of Marcello Mottadelli, “displays a continual eagerness, but without drowning out the song.” He concludes by saying that “Opera på skäret does justice to this masterpiece. A visit is warmly recommended.”
Svenska Dagbladet’s reviewer, Karin Helander, praises the singers as “…a fine ensemble, where the minor roles are also profiled,” and points out especially the principle, Michal Lehotsky, as “a shining heroic tenor who lets madness and distraction mercilessly disintegrate Otello into nothingness.”
She refers to Ole Jörgen Kristiansen’s Iago as “a consistent study of thirst for revenge, lack of empathy and the desire to drive people to the abyss.” Charlotta Larsson “provides a brilliantly lyrical Desdemona, with a soprano voice burning with sensuous warmth and inner pleading, and then moving on to consternation, self-control and horror.”
Svenska Dagbladet’s reviewer calls the production “talented and well done”, the scenography “scaled back and well done” and considers the choir to “reach out to the audience with full power” and that the orchestra maintains “good class under the direction of Marcello Mottadelli.”
Aftonbladet’s Claes Wahlin describes the singing voices as “generally good, with strength and temperament”, and singles out – just as Dagens Nyheter did – Charlotta Larsson, who “sustains her interpretation of Desdemona all the way to the final pianissimo of prayer in the Willow Song.”
Måns Uggla of Nerikes Allehanda follows the same line when he calls Charlotta Larsson “the brightest star” and writes that “Larsson’s soprano presents a large, full resonance across the entire register, and is ready for the major world stages.”
Dala-Demokaten’s Gustaf Berglund joins in the choir of praise for Bergslagen’s own opera prima donna: “The strongest impression is made by Desdemona in Charlotta Larsson’s warm presentation.”
He further describes the production in these terms: “The great Italian operas demand feeling. Uncensored, with no safety nets. As here, in Otello. The public sat breathless during the final scene, after a three-hour performance.”
He reminded us that Opera på Skäret has managed its own grand productions, with international stars in the leading roles, for the 11th summer in a row, to which “the public travels from near and far” – and states “one can easily say that Opera på Skäret has succeeded.”
Göran Forsling of Seen and Heard International had special praise for Maestro Mottadelli, who “has worked wonders with the orchestra: powerful brass, silken strings – the orchestral music before Ave Maria is truly stunning – and elsewhere he charges the music with such intensity and punch that Toscanini probably applauded in his Heaven.”
After the second premiere, Expressen’s reviewer Lars Sjöberg lauded Richard Bauer unreservedly for his Otello: “Plácido Domingo performed it year after year, everywhere. Bauer did it at his level, and if it only occurred this one time, at Skäret this Sunday, at least I was there. And I cried.”
He describes the set as “compressed and scaled back, with an austere set design and costuming… in a personally directed balance between theatrical and musical tempo.” According to him, Marcello Mottadelli conducted ”with the right combination of Italian pressure and security, and also managed to restore song and action after an adventurous power cut that produced a blackout.”
The blackout was the result of a fierce lightning storm, “making demands beyond the theatrical and vocal performance, namely cool-headedness during three acts accompanied by rolling thunder and pattering rain, which despite the extra artillery, failed to shatter Kamila Benhamza’s fine ‘Ave Maria’.”
Read the reviews here (in Swedish unless otherwise noted):
At Opera på Skäret, Swedish and international audiences witness world-class opera. Several of the opera literature’s greatest works have been played here with internationally established singers performing, as well as young, promising, rising stars. Many singers have had their big breakthrough by performing at the festival and Opera på Skäret has therefore made a name for itself as really being “the Singers Opera house”.
Several of the big opera classics have been played here – such as La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Tosca, La Bohème and Carmen. In 2011 we hit the record of most amount of visitors, when 11 500 visitors came to the festival to see Carmen.
Among the singers that have performed at Opera på Skäret through the years, there have been some great international stars from many different countries and from four different continents, such as Stuart Neill, Sandra López, Kristian Benedikt, Robert Hyman, Yana Kleyn, César Augusto Gutiérrez, Javier Palacios, Levente Pàll, Guido Paevetalu, Franco Federici and Ole Jörgen Kristiansen. Among the Swedish greats that have performed here are Tito Beltrán, Birgitta Svendén, Ingrid Tobiasson, Charlotta Larsson, Gitta-Maria Sjöberg and Matilda Paulsson.
Opera på Skäret was founded by Sten Niclasson, an opera singer and director with a background at Göteborgsoperan. The story began one summers day in 1996, when he was visiting a friend in the area, and when going for a drive they ended up at this old saw mill by the lake, that hadn’t been in use for many years. The discovery of this massive building birthed an idea for Sten Niclasson – to create an opera stage on this beautiful location by a lake, surrounded by forests and mountains.
A couple of years later it was time for the premiere, two opera galas with internationally renowned singers. The following summer it was a concert version of Verdi’s La Traviata at Opera på Skäret, and since then there has been at least one opera every year –sometimes two – complete with own scenography and costumes. There has also been Opera- and operetta concerts, pub nights with spontaneous performances by the opera singers and musicians, as well as different art exhibitions at Skäret. These festivals have filled the local area with music and art for two whole summer months.
The Opera house has now reached a certain status, and has earned a reputation as an internationally acclaimed opera stage where both Swedish and foreign singers gladly return to perform. The repertoire, with focus on having well known works, has also drawn many less experienced opera visitors to Skäret, quite often for their very first opera- experience. With popular works and world-class performances, Sten Niclasson has realized part of his vision – to spread the opera art to a partly new audience. Opera på Skäret is also the only opera house in the world with it’s own train station, and every year fully booked, chartered “opera trains” from Stockholm come to Skäret to see the opera.
Opera as a driving force
Opera på Skäret has through the years generated many millions of Swedish crowns to the local businesses. Through for example restaurants and accommodation for our visitors. Opera på Skäret has therefore become a driving force in the development of the local area and a sleepy small town. Economically, Opera på Skäret rely on three sources of income – ticket sales, funding from the state and private sponsors, with the ticket sales being the main source of income. Opera på Skäret is what it is today because of many peoples hard work, and because of various collaborations between private persons and official bodies, universities / the academic world and the regions local businesses, and also many cultural institutions and forward thinking politicians. Hundreds of people have with their engagement and often voluntary work contributed to the vibrant life the festival has today.
“Opera på Skäret” is the only opera house in the world with its own train station. Opera-goers can book round-trip journeys on vintage trains from Stockholm.
The vintage train rides are very popular and tickets usually sell out fast. Tickets are sold as a complete package including opera tickets and the train journey, with lunch on the outbound journey and a three-course dinner on the way back. The train departs in the morning from Stockholm’s Central Station, and the train returns to Stockholm just before midnight on the same day.
For more information and prices, call +44 580 711 00 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.