Simon O’Neill sings first staged Otello in Australia



Simon O’Neill sang his first fully staged performance of Verdi’s Otello on Saturday 5 July 2014 in Sydney. 

At very short notice in 2009, Simon made his debut as Otello in concert at London’s Barbican Centre. Sir Colin Davis conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in this performance, which was released on CD on the LSO Live label. Simon O’Neill’s performance was widely acclaimed by critics, who described his musical and dramatic portrayal of the infamous protagonist as “thrilling”, “a triumph”, “an immense performance” “a tremendous debut in the title-role, giving notice that he is the best heroic tenor to emerge over the last decade.” 
 
Now Simon returns to this role in a fully staged production for Opera Australia, where his interpretation has received rapturous reviews. Performances run until 2 August 2014 at Sydney Opera House and are conducted by Christian Badea and directed by Harry Kupfer. (Click here to watch the trailer). Next season Simon reprises his Otello in a new production for Houston Grand Opera, alongside Ailyn Pérez as Desdemona.

Review highlights – Simon O’Neill as Otello, Opera Australia
“The three main principals could hardly be better. As Otello, New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill is tireless and thrilling… he’s crystal clear even from the very back of the set. This is a reading of enormous panache, considerable vocal nuance and some of the most exciting top notes you are likely to hear on an operatic stage today. How rare and enjoyable it is to sit back and enjoy a singer in such a demanding role in full confidence that he won’t fall at any of the numerous vocal hurdles. The phrase-shaping of which he is capable, despite the gruelling requirements of volume or tessitura, is remarkable. And I’ve never heard so many of the words in a live performance of the role. The rapturous ascent to the top note as he sings “scendean sulle mie tenebre la gloria, il paradiso e gli astri a benedir” in the love duet is spine-tingling and the top note on “della Gloria d’Otello”, in the farewell-to-arms is hair-raising … He hurls himself around with gay abandon, and manages some pretty spectacular tumbles” Limelight magazine, July 2014
 
“As Otello, New Zealander Simon O’Neill cemented his reputation as one of the world’s top heldentenors…O’Neill is another singer to make his mark by stepping in to a role at short notice — in 2009 in the title role of Otello with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. O’Neill’s projection is phenomenal, with an awesome upper register. Even more satisfying is his ability to sustain the intensity despite the demands of being on stage for a large part of the time.” Tom Pillans , Manly Daily, 7 July 2014 

“Simon O’Neill veered vertiginously between the vocal command of his first appearance as conquering hero, the tenderness of his first scene with Desdemona, the confused suspicion and the raging jealousy which later overcome him, and the utter defeat of the end. I have rarely heard such a convincing fusion of great singing and total character portrayal as in this performance of Otello, itself probably Verdi’s most successful opera in terms of theatre.” The Australian Stage, July 2014
 
“As for Otello, the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill commands from the minute he steps on stage. From his re-entry in Act 1 where he seeks to silence the fray (“Abbasso le spade!”/”Down with your swords!”), O’Neill’s vocal and physical presence never wavers. Taught the role by one of the great Otellos, Placido Domingo, and fresh from a season of Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera, it is with single-minded intensity that O’Neill’s Heldentenor pierces through the psyche of the beleaguered Moor.” The Guardian (Australian), July 2014
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