Otello s command gets a twist

International soprano Cheryl Barker will help WA Opera make history tomorrow by bringing Verdi's Shakespearean tragedy Otello to Perth for the first time.

"It is wonderful to be part of it," the Sydney-based singer said of playing Desdemona, the doomed wife of the jealous military leader and "Moor of Venice" Otello.

This tri-nation production involving six companies has updated the action from a 15th century castle to an aircraft carrier.

"You can set it in any period because human nature has always been the same," Barker said.

"Jealousy, revenge and ambition - all those things are everyday for a lot of people. Not so much murder, though."

Barker said she relished the chance to work with director Simon Phillips and WA Opera's American artistic director Joseph Colaneri for the first time.

The opera put great vocal and dramatic demand on its principals, including Italian tenor Antonello Palombi as Otello and James Clayton as Iago, but was great for audiences, she said.

"It is one of the great operas and certainly Verdi's best, so for people who haven't been to the opera before, it is very accessible for audiences," Barker said.

Also in the cast are guests from the Cape Town Opera Chorus.

Otello, part of the Perth International Arts Festival, has just four performances at His Majesty's Theatre ending February 11.

Stephen Bevis

The West Australian

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