Sep 17, 2009

Emilia, You're Breaking My Heart

Photo by Armin Bardel
I almost forgot to comment on this: In David Cote's Q&A with Peter Sellars re: his new Othello, now at the Skirball and starring those LAByrinth dudes, Sellars drops a rather big bombshell: He's spun a few lines of Iago's ("And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets/He has done my office", and "For that I do suspect the lusty Moor/Hath leap'd into my seat") into a real flesh-and-blood affair between Othello and Iago's wife, Emilia. So much for the enigma of Iago's motives. As Sellars puts it, with his signature breathlessness:
Suddenly, it’s totally human. It’s not abstract and celestial. And you see that Othello also mentions it, and that’s the shock. That’s Shakespeare’s point: Iago is not crazy, not paranoid, not insane. He’s human. And his best friend is having an affair with his wife. And so it creates this tension that is unbearable and finally, of course, explodes. Because violence is all about what can’t be talked about.

I can't find the reference he mentions, of Othello citing hanky-panky with Emilia. Can any Shakespeare scholars help me out here?

Not that the finer points of text would necessarily matter to Sellars. This is the guy who set Debussy's ethereal Pelleas et Melisande in a Malibu beach mansion and had a chorus of homeless men shuffle through (it was beautiful, actually); who set Figaro in Trump Tower and had Don Giovanni sing "Fin' chan al vino" while shooting up heroin. And of course the John Adams stuff, good (Nixon, El Nino) and bad (Dr. Atomic, Klinghoffer). In short, I've loved his work nearly as much as it's driven me crazy, and it's heartening to see that his often heedless, always heartfelt iconoclasm hasn't softened with age. No American director I admire walks the sometimes infuriating, often exhilarating line between genius and flake so well, and I wish we saw more of his work stateside.

And that distinctive flying-V hair only seems to have gotten more vertical as it's acquired more gray.

1 comment:

Cisic said...

I just reread Othello yesterday, and don't recall Othello mentioning it. But I can imagine you would have to be looking for it.

But isn't the point of Othello that Iago is able to take a noble man and destroy him? Othello is no longer a noble man if he actually is having an affair, betraying both his best friend and his wife.