“He [Gustavo Dudamel] sensitively followed the lead of the soprano Sonya Yoncheva, an exquisite, uncommonly passionate Desdemona, as she shaped the character’s soaring vocal lines with suppleness and ardor. (...) Ms. Yoncheva, the Desdemona when this production had its premiere, was even better on this night. During the final scene as Desdemona prepares for bed, Ms. Yoncheva blended vocal radiance and aching sadness in her performance of the wistful “Willow Song.” In a recent interview, Mr. Dudamel said that the tender harmonies in the strings that usher in Desdemona’s “Ave Maria” prayer may be his favorite moment of the entire opera. He drew softly luminous sounds from the orchestra, and then beautifully cushioned Ms. Yoncheva’s eloquent singing.”
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
“Otello, Metropolitan Opera, New York — fine singing, and cheers for Dudamel
Sonya Yoncheva was on good form in Verdi’s opera, with Gustavo Dudamel making his Met debut”
John Rockwell, Financial Times
“Yoncheva’s sublime Desdemona lifts Met’s tepid “Otello”
The most powerful scene in Verdi’s Otello is an invention of the librettist. In the final scene of Shakespeare’s Othello, the title character asks his wife “Have you pray’d tonight, Desdemona?”—she has, she says. Arrigo Boito used that line as his cue to show the prayer onstage, adding it to the end of the Willow scene, an ingenious addition to an already masterly drama.
That scene alone, and Sonya Yoncheva’s performance, makes it worth catching the Metropolitan Opera’s current revival, which opened Friday night. Yoncheva is a formidable actress, and her artistry was sublime, contrasting the deep grief of the “Willow Song” with the more contained, intimate emotion of the “Ave Maria.” ... her rich, blooming soprano is a perfect match for the role.
Hers is a fierce take on Desdemona: the essential kindness of her character certainly comes through in her early interactions with her husband, but she was not content simply to cower when he first made his violent accusation of infidelity in Act III. That inner strength made her inability to escape her fate all the more devastating.
But apart from its star soprano, this revival felt sleepy, even though it featured accomplished vocal performances.”
Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review
“Yoncheva and Dudamel shine in a blazing Otello at the Met”
“I needn’t say much about Sonya Yoncheva's Desdemona, since it touched perfection almost consistently. Warm and girlish in the first act, noble and confused in the second and outraged by the third, she presented the deepest portrayal of the evening. The voice still has a hint of Callas in mid-range, which fascinates. And her top notes have a warm vibrato or a cutting edge – she can do both, and to great effect. Her Ave Maria was hypnotic; would that the conductor have gone straight into the double bass solo so as to stop the applause that interrupted the mood.”
Robert Levine, Bachtrack
“When the production premiered, Sonya Yoncheva's Desdemona (that's Dez-DAY-mo-na, rather than Shakespeare's Dez-duh-MO-na) stole the show and this time it was no different, though her Otello and Iago gave her more competition this time. Looking utterly glamorous in Catherine Gruber's gorgeous costumes, she was no shrinking violet but determined to have her views heard, in coming to the defense of Cassio, another of Iago's stooges.
Her eventual victimhood, however, waiting for the mad Otello to strangle her, was pretty hard to take in these #Metoo times. But her singing was outstanding, in its steely, Eastern European way, whether in leading her late-arriving partner in the famous love duet of Act I or the breathtaking Willow Song ("Salce, salce...") and "Ave Maria" of Act IV. (For the record, the performance was done with a single intermission, after Act II.)”
Richard Sasanow, Broadwayworld
“Yoncheva delivered a brilliant performance. Her singing and acting were especially strong in the massive third-Act Finale, where Otello denounces her and she pleads for pity. But her exquisite voice was most moving in Act Four in the sad unearthly ‘Willow Song’ and the concentrated ‘Ave Maria’.”
Susan Stempleski, ClassicalSource
“Yoncheva’s tonal refulgence – and evocation, in her veiled-mid voice, of Maria Callas – gave considerable pleasure as soon as the Love Duet began. … her stage commitment and basic lovely sound counted for much, and she fared memorably in her Willow Song/Ave Maria scena.”
David Shengold, Classical Voice North America