DIRECTOR’S CHOICE

From May 4-19, the Connecticut Lyric Opera and the CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra will be presenting a thrilling production of Verdi’s “OTELLO” which will premiere on the 4th at New Britain’s Trinity-on-Main and proceed to New London’s Garde the 6th, Middletown High School the 11th and  Naugatuck Valley College in Waterbury on the 19th. Director of these performances is none other than David Jaffe, a man of over 30 years of experience in the theater, as an actor, director and professor of acting and drama.

So, whose “OTELLO” is this? In the world’s largest international opera houses, so often one hears its “the Zeffirelli Otello”, or “the Domingo Otello” or “the Solti Otello” — ie the production dominated by a celebrity director, singer or conductor. Should there be any discrepancies over wardrobe, tempi, stage business, cuts, anything at all, star status rules. Often, it no longer becomes Verdi’s OTELLO, let alone Shakespeare’s! However, in smaller companies, the key word is “teamwork” — and it is this joint effort of director Jaffe, maestro Adrian Sylveen and a top notch cast of singers that promises to make these upcoming performances of this opera golden!

On April 26, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mr. Jaffe on his ideas for OTELLO and his colorful past in the theater world. A graduate of Conn. College in New London (1977), Jaffe was also a faculty member there in the theater department from 1989-1997. He performed for many years as an actor in regional theater companies such as Long Wharf, the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford and the Yale Rep, not to mention has had a distinguished career teaching as a professor of acting at Wesleyan University, Conn. College and the Eugene O,Neill Theater Center — plus, the directing! Here are some highlights of that conversation:

LK — “You are returning to the Conn. Lyric Opera I understand?”
DJ — “Yes, I did “Marriage of Figaro” and “Boheme” for them several years ago.”
LK — “Tell us about your greatest strengths as a director and as an actor’s “coach”.
DJ — “I like creating and adapting new material. I believe in clarifying the story to the actors and strengthening the acting moments. I talk to each actor or singer about their interpretation of the role, their take on the character, and feed off the sensitivity of each performer.”
LK — “What is your favorite Shakespeare play?”
DJ — “I have directed “Richard III”, but my favorite is “Hamlet”. I am also very much into Anton Chekhov. His works are one of my specialties.”
LK — “Any particular directors you especially admire?”
DJ — “Well, of course, so many – yes, Zeffirelli, too — but I particularly admire Mike Nichols.”
LK— “How is this production of Otello coming along during rehearsals?”
DJ — “I would say it is a fairly conservative approach, some new ideas, but nothing outlandish. I dont want to say too much –don’t want to ruin the surprise……”
LK — “So, you arent going to tell us how you are staging Desdemona’s murder — does Otello strangle her or smother her with a pillow?”
JD — “Surprise!”
LK— “One last question — any relation to the actor Sam Jaffe of “Ben-Hur” fame?”
JD— “I actually had a grandfather named Sam, but it wasn’t him!”
LK — “Thank-you David for this insightful chat, and we all look forward to your stage magic in all four upcoming Otello performances!”

For tickets and more information on this opera, or next season’s opening night “CARMEN” in late October, please visit ctlyricopera.org or thevirtuosi.org.

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