By David Ehrlich

Riverbend Opera Company is returning to Southwest Washington for the fourth year, this time presenting Verdi’s masterpiece Otello at 7:30 p.m. June 12, at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church.  In partnership with the Southwest Chamber Players concert series, this will be a free concert, with donations accepted.

Otello is arguably the most compelling and mature of Verdi’s opera, beginning with an enormous storm as Otello lands in Cyprus after a huge military victory, and flowing without letup to the tragic end. Shakespeare’s famous drama is captured faithfully by Verdi and librettist Arrigo Boito, overflowing in the opera with continual action and powerful human passion that captures our emotions with Verdi’s exhilarating music.

Riverbend brings an experienced cast of outstanding professional artists to this challenging work. Tenor Kevin Courtemanche, a member of the chorus with the New York Met and a veteran as the lead in dozens of operas throughout the United States, calls this the “Mount Everest of tenor roles.” Courtemanche appeared last year in the title role of Tales of Hoffmann at St. Augustine’s, and counts six Verdi tenor roles in his repertoire, including Radames (Aida) and Don Carlo.

Soprano Melissa Chávez (“Giulietta” in last year’s Hoffmann) sings Desdemona, adding to her list of leading roles that includes Donna Elvira, Contessa (in Le Nozze), and Hanna (Merry Widow), among many others.

Baritone Bryan Jackson, a Washington favorite, sings the role of antagonist “Iago,” planting the seeds of Otello’s destruction with lies about Desdemona’s betrayal of Otello in some of the opera’s best known scenes. Jackson has appeared in roles including Jupiter in Orpheus, Scarpia in Tosca, Enrico (Lucia), and many others with Washington National Opera, The In Series, and Belcantanti, among other companies.

Conductor Molly Khatcheressian has been Music Director and Chorus Master since the founding of Riverbend Opera Company in 2009, and has appeared in all of the Southwest D.C. concerts. In Otello she directs a full company of more than 60 talented singers, the largest Riverbend has assembled.

The opera will be presented semi-staged, with projected English surtitles.  St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church is at 600 M St. SW. The company website at has more information on the cast and the opera, other performances in the metro area, and contact information for Riverbend.

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