JOHAN BOTHA – South African Tenor Makes SF Opera Debut as “Otello”

Baritone Marco Vratogna and soprano Zvetelina Vassileva co-star in Verdi’s masterpiece opening this Sunday at the War Memorial Opera House

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s masterwork OTELLO, opening Sunday afternoon, November 8th, with six subsequent performances through December 2nd at the War Memorial Opera House.  Starring in the title role is South African tenor Johan Botha with Bulgarian soprano Zvetelina Vassileva as “Desdemona” and Italian baritone Marco Vratogna as “Iago”.  This revival of the Lyric Opera of Chicago production by Sir Peter Hall is directed by Stephen Barlow and conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Widely considered to be one of today’s pre-eminent interpreters of the role, Johan Botha makes his San Francisco Opera debut as the flawed warrior “Otello”, a role he has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Frankfurt Opera.  Acclaimed for his vocal power and ringing clarity, Mr. Botha has gained worldwide critical acclaim performing with opera companies such as the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala and with symphony orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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JOHAN BOTHA as “Otello”. Photo, Ken Howard

Zvetelina Vassileva sings the role of Otello’s faithful and falsely accused wife Desdemona. Ms Vassileva made her U.S. opera debut at San Francisco Opera in 1994 as “Leonora” in Il Trovatore and most recently appeared with the Company as “Drusilla” in L’Incoronazione di Poppea. Vassileva has previously performed the role at Covent Garden and in her native Bulgaria at Sofia’s Bulgarian National Opera. Marco Vratogna makes his San Francisco Opera debut as the manipulative soldier Iago, a role he has performed at Frankfurt Opera, Hamburg Opera and Stuttgart State Opera.

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MARCO VRATOGNA, Baritone
 

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ZVETELINA VASSILEVA and ERIC HALFVARSON

Tenor Beau Gibson, a Merola Opera Program alumnus who made his Company debut in this season’s SALOME, sings the role of Otello’s captain, “Cassio”.  Appearing as Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid “Emilia” is mezzo-soprano and Adler Fellow Renée Tatum, who also sang in this season’s production of Salome. American bass Eric Halfvarson, who has performed more than fifteen roles with San Francisco Opera, sings “Lodovico”, a role he will soon reprise with Los Angeles Opera.

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BEAU GIBSON (Cassio) and RENÉE TATUM (Emilia)

San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Luisotti’s interpretation of the Season’s opener, Verdi’s I IL TROVATORE was praised by the San Francisco Sentinel as “a stunning success.” This revival of the Lyric Opera of Chicago production, designed by John Gunter and originally directed by Sir Peter Hall, is directed by Australian opera director Stephen Barlow, who most recently directed the Company’s LA RONDINE in 2007.  The San Francisco Opera Chorus is directed by Ian Robertson.
 
Considered by many to be one of Verdi’s greatest and most demanding operas, Otello is based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Arrigo Boito’s libretto tells the story of the great Moorish warrior Otello and his crippling jealousy over the imagined dalliances of his beautiful wife Desdemona. Otello’s ensign, the vengeful Iago, capitalizes on his leader’s weakness by rousing the general’s suspicion with false stories about Desdemona and Cassio. Otello’s obsession and mistrust of his wife eventually accomplish Iago’s murderous plans.
Order your tickets now: OTELLO

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JOHAN BOTHA as “Otello”. Photo, Ken Howard

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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