Otello / Recovered Voices
Los Angeles review by Willard Manus

Los Angeles Opera continues to go from strength to strength. Thanks to the generous support of its board members, the company has been able to mount several Wagner operas in recent years (with the complete Ring cycle scheduled for 2010), not to speak of the "Recovered Voices" series. Promulgated by music director James Conlon, "Recovered Voices" is giving new life to German operatic works that Hitler tried to kill.

Conlon and director Darko Tresnjak teamed up recently to present THE BROKEN JUG and THE DWARF, two little-known one-act operas by Viktor Ullman and Alexander Zemlinsky, respectively. It was a revelation to hear and experience these suppressed works today. THE BROKEN JUG (written by Ullman while he was imprisoned at Theresienstadt) is a comic gem about a corrupt village judge (James Johnson) who gets his comeuppance; THE DWARF (based on a short story by Oscar Wilde) explores the Beauty and the Beast theme with devastating power and drama. Rodrick Dixon's performance as The Dwarf who falls tragically in love with a winsome but wilful princess (Mary Dunleavy) is one I'll never forget. What singing, what acting! (Dunleavy is no slouch in those departments, either).

THE DWARF is one of the great operas of the 20th century. Hats off to LA Opera for becoming the first major American opera company to mount it.

Playing in repertory with it is Verdi's OTELLO, starring Ian Storey, Mark Delavan (as Iago) and Elena Evseeva (substituting at the last minute for Gallardo-Domas as Desdemona). Directed by John Cox, the production was solid and satisfying throughout.

Coming attractions include an April 20 recital by Bryn Terfel and productions of two Puccini operas: TOSCA (May 17-June 21) and LA RONDINE (June 7-28). Call 213-972-8001 or visit laopera.com for tickets and information.