|Opera by Giuseppe Verdi|
Otello and Desdemona
by Alexandre-Marie Colin, 1829
|Based on|| Othello |
5 February 1887
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Otello (Italian pronunciation: [oˈtɛllo] ) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello . It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.
A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.
With the composer's reluctance to write anything new after the success of Aida in 1871 and his retreat into retirement, it took his Milan publisher Giulio Ricordi the next ten years, first to persuade him to write anything, then to encourage the revision of Verdi's 1857 Simon Boccanegra by introducing Boito as librettist, and finally to begin the arduous process of persuading and cajoling Verdi to see Boito's completed libretto for Otello in July/August 1881. February 1887, it proved to be a resounding success, and further stagings of Otello soon followed at leading theatres throughout Europe and America.However, the process of writing the first drafts of the libretto and the years of their revision, with Verdi all along not promising anything, dragged on, and it wasn't until 1884, five years after the first drafts of the libretto, that composition began, with most of the work finishing in late 1885. When it finally premiered in Milan on 5
Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, it was commissioned by Cairo's Khedivial Opera House and had its première there on 24 December 1871, in a performance conducted by Giovanni Bottesini. Today the work holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world; at New York's Metropolitan Opera alone, Aida has been sung more than 1,100 times since 1886. Ghislanzoni's scheme follows a scenario often attributed to the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, but Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz argues that the source is actually Temistocle Solera.
Giulio Ricordi was an Italian editor and musician who joined the family firm, the Casa Ricordi music publishing house, in 1863, then run by his father, Tito, the son of the company's founder Giovanni Ricordi. Upon his father's death in 1888, Giulio became the head of the company until his death.
Simon Boccanegra is an opera with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Simón Bocanegra (1843) by Antonio García Gutiérrez, whose play El trovador had been the basis for Verdi's 1853 opera, Il trovatore.
After the completion and premiere of his opera Aida in December 1871, Verdi decided that it was time for him to end his successful career as a composer of opera, much as Rossini had done after the completion of the opera William Tell , though he was easily the most popular, and possibly the wealthiest, composer in Italy at the time. However, Verdi's sixties were not good years: as musicologist Julian Budden notes, "he seemed to have entered [those years] in a mood of gloom and depression [..and..] his letters at the time were full of complaints about the Italian theatre, Italian politics and Italian music in general [all] seen by him as sinking beneath a tide of Germanism".
A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.
Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity.
William Tell is a French-language opera in four acts by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy and L. F. Bis, based on Friedrich Schiller's play William Tell, which, in turn, drew on the William Tell legend. The opera was Rossini's last, although he lived for nearly 40 more years. Fabio Luisi said that Rossini planned for William Tell to be his last opera even as he composed it. The often-performed overture in four sections features a depiction of a storm and a vivacious finale, the "March of the Swiss Soldiers."
Because of the immense popularity of Verdi's music in Italy by the 1870s, Verdi's retirement seemed to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, to be a waste of talent and possible profits. Thus a plot of sorts was hatched in order to coax the composer out of retirement to write another opera. Because of the importance of the dramatic aspects of opera to the composer, Verdi was especially selective in his choice of subjects. Consequently, if he were to agree to create another opera after a decade of retirement, the libretto would need to be one that would capture his interest.
During the period when a suitable story was being sought for what became Aida, Ricordi had come across Boito's partly finished libretto of his own opera Nerone , and he even suggested in a letter of February 1870 to Verdi that, with Boito's permission, he set it to music. Verdi ignored it, and so Ricordi tried again in January 1871, enclosing with his letter a copy of Boito's libretto for Boito's friend and collaborator Franco Faccio's Amleto which had been given in 1865 and was revived in February 1871.Nothing came of this approach, although Ricordi persevered in various ways, as seen by the composer's gruff response to the publisher's statement "The whole salvation of the theatre and the art is in your hands" when Verdi wrote in April 1875 that "I cannot take it as but a joke", continuing with "Oh no, never fear, composers for the theatre will never be lacking".
Nerone (Nero) is an opera in four acts composed by Arrigo Boito, to a libretto in Italian written by the composer. The work is a series of scenes from Imperial Rome at the time of Emperor Nero depicting tensions between the Imperial religion and Christianity, and ends with the Great Fire of Rome. Boito died in 1918 before finishing the work.
Francesco (Franco) Antonio Faccio was an Italian composer and conductor. Born in Verona, he studied music at the Milan Conservatory from 1855 where he was a pupil of Stefano Ronchetti-Monteviti and, as scholar William Ashbrook notes, "where he struck up a lifelong friendship with Arrigo Boito, two years his junior" and with whom he was to collaborate in many ways.
Amleto is an opera in four acts by Franco Faccio set to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Hamlet. It premiered on 30 May 1865 at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa and was revised for a La Scala production given on 12 February 1871.
Verdi's refusals continued as the 1870s progressed. Knowing of his interest in the soprano Adelina Patti, Ricordi tried to entice him into writing an opera for her, but Verdi's refusal resulted in another approach via a letter to the composer’s wife Giuseppina, who was to present the idea at an opportune time. But she confessed defeat yet again.Clara Maffei also tried, unsuccessfully, in March 1878 to interest Verdi, who replied: "For what reason should I write? What would I succeed in doing?"
Adelina Patti was an Italian-French 19th-century opera singer, earning huge fees at the height of her career in the music capitals of Europe and America. She first sang in public as a child in 1851, and gave her last performance before an audience in 1914. Along with her near contemporaries Jenny Lind and Thérèse Tietjens, Patti remains one of the most famous sopranos in history, owing to the purity and beauty of her lyrical voice and the unmatched quality of her bel canto technique.
Clelia Maria Josepha (Giuseppina) Strepponi was a nineteenth-century Italian operatic soprano of great renown and the second wife of composer Giuseppe Verdi.
Elena Clara Antonia Carrara Spinelli was an Italian woman of letters and backer of the Risorgimento, usually known by her married name of countess Clara Maffei or Chiarina Maffei.
While he was attempting to get Verdi involved a new opera, in May 1879 Ricordi also tried to engage the composer in revising Simon Boccanegra . This suggestion, originally expressed ten years before but ignored, was once again shrugged off by Verdi, who sent a note saying that the 1857 score, which had been sent to the composer for review, would remain untouched "just as you sent it to me".
Persisting with further attempts to convince the composer, Ricordi had also broached the idea of a collaboration with Boito for a new opera based on Shakespeare's Othello . Verdi admired the dramatic works of Shakespeare and had, throughout his career, desired to create operas based on his plays, although his one attempt at doing so, Macbeth in 1847, although initially successful, was not well received when revised for performance in Paris in 1865.Because of its relatively straightforward story, the play Othello was selected as a likely target.
Collaborations with Boito in the revision of the 1857 opera Simon Boccanegra helped to convince Verdi of Boito's ability as a librettist. Musicologist Roger Parker speculates that Verdi's final agreement to revise Boccanegra was based on a desire to "test the possibility" of working with Boito before possibly embarking on the larger project.Frank Walker expresses much the same thoughts, noting that "some of the results, such as the magnificent scene in the Council Chamber and the villainous Paolo's Iago-like recitatives, foreshadow the later opera."
Verdi visited Milan on 30 June 1879, and conducted his Requiem Mass in a benefit performance at La Scala. He received the great acclaim of the public, which included the La Scala orchestra playing outside his hotel. Walker assumes that it was both Ricordi and Faccio who stage managed the effects to give the composer the sense of being welcome and respected in Milan.
Finally, after some plotting, Ricordi, in conjunction with Verdi's friend, the conductor Franco Faccio, subtly introduced the idea of a new opera to Verdi. During a dinner at Verdi's Milan residence during the summer of 1879, Ricordi and Faccio guided the conversation towards Shakespeare's play Othello and to the librettist Arrigo Boito (whom Ricordi claimed to be a great fan of the play also). Ricordi told the story to Giuseppe Adami, a librettist for three of Puccini's operas:
Suggestions were made, despite initial skepticism on the part of the composer, that Boito would be interested in creating a new libretto based upon the play. Within several days, Ricordi approached Verdi with the request that he would like to visit Sant' Agata "with a friend" in September. Verdi's reaction was clearly non-committal: "I wish absolutely to avoid committing myself [...] The best thing ... is for him to send me the finished poem".
Meanwhile, Boito began work on the libretto in spite of illness and, by late October/early November had sent a copy of the work so far. After appealing to Giuseppina, Ricordi was told that the Verdis would be coming to Milan and that he would meet privately with Boito. However, she noted in her letter of 7 November: "Between ourselves, what Boito has so far written of the African seems to please him, and is very well done."
At this point the opera was being referred to as Iago rather than Otello, due to the tradition—"an unwritten law of the theatre"—that any new opera would have a new title rather than that of one still in the repertoire, in this case by Rossini.
The process of writing the first drafts of the libretto and the years of their revision, with Verdi all along not promising anything, dragged on. As Walker charts it, the opera was completed:
By late August 1881, it appears that the text of the finale of act 3, over which there had been some considerable discussion (with ideas exchanged between both men) was sent to Verdi, who responded in a long letter from Milan regarding his feelings about its overall structure, the role of the chorus, and other issues.Throughout 1882 and 1883 very little happened, although during the winter of 1883 Verdi and Boito met in Genoa where the Verdis spent their winters, but it prompted Ricordi for three Christmases in a row to send a cake to Verdi with the figure of the Moor—in chocolate—on the top. In order to keep information about the composition within the group, this gesture may have been the cause for the name given to the project for many years, "chocolate", as in Boito's letter of 1864 noting that "the manufacture of chocolate was going ahead".
Early the following year, Verdi began to compose and on 20 March 1884, in a letter from Boito to Ricordi, the librettist announced that Verdi had begun with the "opening of first act and seems to be working with fervor".There then occurred an event which unsettled both Verdi and Boito, and which nearly caused the project to come to a complete stop. While attending a banquet in Naples following the successful presentation of his opera Mefistofele , Boito gave an interview to a journalist and, in trying to keep information about the proposed Otello as quiet as possible, appears to have been misquoted by another journalist who overheard part of the conversation. The key point was that Boito, himself a composer, appeared to want to compose the music for Otello himself. When Verdi read this in a Milan newspaper, he was horrified and, in a letter to Faccio (rather than directly confronting Boito) stated that he wanted Faccio to directly tell the librettist that "I will give him his manuscript intact, without a shadow of resentment, without rancor of any kind".
When he heard of the newspaper report, Boito was horrified. Writing immediately to Verdi, he states:
Verdi's response, which came right away was quite blunt: in addition to complaining of his age, his years of service, and raising other objections, he states: "The conclusion is that all this has cast a chill over this Otello, and stiffened the hand that had begun to trace out a few bars!",but, in total contrast, Boito appears to have simply decided to carry on. Albeit "somewhat disquieted", he immediately proposes "a sort of evil Credo [which] I did... for my own comfort and personal satisfaction, because I felt the need of doing it". On 3 May, Verdi wrote back, calming this down: "Most beautiful this Credo; most powerful and wholly Shakespearian....[...] it would be well to leave this Otello in peace for a bit....[and encouraging Boito to come to Sant'Agata where] "we shall be able to talk it over again, and by then with the necessary calm". Boito did visit Verdi in September for three days.
"It seems impossible, but it's true all the same! I'm busy, writing!!....without purpose, without worries, without thinking of what will happen next.....".So Verdi wrote to Boito, with a request for a few more lines for act two, to which the librettist immediately responded: "One can't escape one's destiny, and by a law of intellectual affinity that tragedy of Shakespeare's is predestined for you".
Verdi's second burst of creative energy lasted until mid-April 1885, and was followed by the usual summer break and a lack of any activity. He confesses to Boito in a letter of 10 September of that year, when he invites him to come to Sant'Agata the following Sunday, stating "since I've been here [from the end of April] (I blush to say it) I've done nothing!"It was during this time that the fourth act was pulled together. Walker speculates that Boito's visit and his conversations with the composer must have had some effect on Verdi because, on 5 October, Verdi made the announcement: "I have finished the fourth act, and I breathe again".
Scoring took another year which, from January 1886 onward, involved the librettist in re-writes and additions at Verdi's request. It was at this time that it was decided to call the opera Otello rather than Iago (as noted above). Verdi's letter to Boito in January settles the matter: "I would find it hypocritical not to call it Otello.Emanuele Muzio (Verdi's long-time assistant) tells Ricordi in March that the love duet in act 1 was finished and performed.
In May, Verdi "hit upon the precise form of one of the most famous entrances in all opera"– Otello's "Esultate"—in act 1. Boito modified his verses accordingly. Other minor changes and proposed revisions were wrapped up into September so that Verdi could write to Ricordi on 9 September: "Tomorrow I shall send to Casa Ricordi, completely finished, all the first act and all scene vi of the third; and thus with the fourth, already sent, perhaps three-fifths of the Moor are ready".
But on 1 November 1886, in a laconic communication, Verdi was able to proclaim: "DEAR BOITO, It is finished! All honour to us! (and to Him!!). Farewell. G. VERDI".(sic)This left only a few minor tweaks to be done, with Boito providing two more lines in December and Verdi writing to him on the 18th saying "I have just consigned to [Ricordi] the last acts of Otello! Poor Othello!...He won't come back here any more!!!" The librettist replied: "The Moor will come back no more to knock on the door of the Palazzo Doria [Verdi's Genoa residence], but you will go to meet the Moor at La Scala. Otello exists. The great dream has become reality".
As the Italian public became aware that the retired Verdi was composing another opera, rumors about it abounded. At the same time, many of the most illustrious conductors, singers and opera-house managers in Europe were vying for an opportunity to play a part in Otello's premiere, despite the fact that Faccio and La Scala, Milan, had already been selected as the conductor and the venue for the first performance. The two male protagonists had been selected, too: Italy's foremost dramatic tenor, Francesco Tamagno, was to sing Otello while the esteemed French singing-actor Victor Maurel would assume the villainous baritone role of Iago. Romilda Pantaleoni, a well-known singing-actress, was assigned Desdemona's soprano part.
Upon the completion of the opera, preparations for the initial performance were conducted in absolute secrecy and Verdi reserved the right to cancel the premiere up to the last minute. In particular, the composer expressed reservations about Tamagno's softer singing, though not about the power and ring of his vocalism in dramatic passages of the score.
Verdi need not have worried: Otello's debut proved to be a resounding success. The audience's enthusiasm for Verdi was shown by the 20 curtain calls that he took at the end of the opera. Further stagings of Otello soon followed at leading theatres throughout Europe and America.
The opera was first seen in the US at the Academy of Music in New York on 16 April 1888 and in the UK on 5 July 1889 in London. When it was given in Paris on 12 October 1894, "Verdi composed a short ballet (which) forms part of the ceremony of welcome for the Venetian ambassadors in the act 3 finale."The first Parisian production was directed by Lapissida, with costumes designed by Charles Bianchini, and sets by Marcel Jambon (Act I), Amable and Eugène Gardy (Act II), Eugène Carpezat (Act III), and Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Act IV).
At its first appearance in Vienna, the title role was sung by Hermann Winkelmann, who had created the title role in Wagner's Parsifal at Bayreuth in 1882.
Today, the opera is frequently performed throughout the world, a staple of the standard repertoire.
Since the three leading roles of the opera (Otello, Desdemona and Iago) are among Verdi's most demanding, both vocally and dramatically, some of the most illustrious singers of the past 130 years have made Otello part of their repertoire. Famous Otellos of the past have included Tamagno, the role's trumpet-voiced creator, as well as Giovanni Battista De Negri, Albert Alvarez, Francesc Viñas, Giuseppe Borgatti, Antonio Paoli, Giovanni Zenatello, Renato Zanelli, Giovanni Martinelli, Aureliano Pertile, Francesco Merli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Frank Mullings, Leo Slezak, Jose Luccioni, Ramón Vinay, Mario Del Monaco, James McCracken, Jon Vickers, David Rendall, Jeffrey Lawton and Carlo Cossutta. Pre-Second World War Wagnerian tenors such as Jacques Urlus, Heinrich Knote, Alexander Kirchner, Lauritz Melchior and Franz Völker also undertook the part (usually singing it in German). The Russian heroic tenor Ivan Yershov was a renowned pre-World War I Otello in his native country. His compatriot Arnold Azrikan achieved his greatest recognition as a dramatic tenor in Otello. For this performance he was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946. Enrico Caruso was studying Otello when he died unexpectedly in 1921, thus thwarting the New York Metropolitan Opera company's plans to stage the opera as a new vehicle for its star tenor.
Currently, Plácido Domingo has appeared in more video productions of the opera than any other tenor.Also, he has recorded the complete role several times on CD and appeared in numerous stage productions of the work on both sides of the Atlantic. In his book My First Forty Years, Domingo has written about different approaches over the years towards singing the role of Otello:
A long lineage of renowned baritones have sung Iago since 1887. Among them: Victor Maurel (the role's first exponent), Mattia Battistini, Mario Ancona, Antonio Scotti, Titta Ruffo, Pasquale Amato, Carlo Galeffi and Lawrence Tibbett. Leading post-war exponents of the part have included Giuseppe Valdengo, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Tito Gobbi, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris. Many lyric sopranos have also sung the role of Desdemona since 1887, including Renata Tebaldi (1954), Leonie Rysanek (1960), Gwyneth Jones (1968), Mirella Freni (1974), Margaret Price (1977), Renata Scotto (1978), Katia Ricciarelli (1985), Kiri Te Kanawa (1991), Cheryl Studer (1993), Renée Fleming (1996) and Sonya Yoncheva (2015).
For many years it was common for white singers to wear dark makeup when playing Otello. The Metropolitan Opera stopped the practice in 2015.Some have argued that using dark makeup for the character is a matter of costuming, and not a true example of racist blackface. The Metropolitan decision led to calls for casting more people of color in opera.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast,|
5 February 1887
(Conductor: Franco Faccio)
|Otello, a Moorish general||tenor||Francesco Tamagno|
|Desdemona, his wife||soprano||Romilda Pantaleoni|
|Iago, Otello's ensign||baritone||Victor Maurel|
|Emilia, wife of Iago and maid of Desdemona||mezzo-soprano||Ginevra Petrovich|
|Cassio, Otello's captain||tenor||Giovanni Paroli|
|Roderigo, a gentleman of Venice||tenor||Vincenzo Fornari|
|Lodovico, ambassador of the Venetian Republic||bass||Francesco Navarini|
|Montano, former Governor of Cyprus||bass||Napoleone Limonta|
|A herald||bass||Angelo Lagomarsino|
|Chorus: Venetian soldiers and sailors; and Cypriot townsfolk and children|
A town in Cyprus, outside the castle. An inn with a pergola, in the background the quayside and sea. It is evening. Lightning, thunder, gale force winds.
On a stormy evening, the people of Cyprus anxiously await the arrival of the new governor, Otello, from a naval battle with the Turks (Chorus, Montano, Cassio, Iago, Roderigo: Una vela! / "A sail!"). For a moment it seems as if Otello's ship will founder, to the delight of Otello's treacherous ensign, Iago, but Otello arrives safely and announces that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed, and the Cypriots cheer (Otello, chorus: Esultate! L'orgoglio musulmano sepolto è in mar / "Rejoice! The Muslim’s pride is buried in the sea").
Iago offers to help the young Venetian gentleman Roderigo in his seduction of Otello's wife, Desdemona – Iago envies Otello his success and longs to destroy the Moor (Iago, Roderigo: Roderigo, ebben che pensi? / "Well, Roderigo, what are you thinking?"). Among his grievances, Iago is outraged that Otello has appointed Cassio to be the captain of the navy, a position that Iago hoped to have. The people of Cyprus celebrate the safe return of Otello and his men by lighting a bonfire and drinking (Chorus: Fuoco di gioia!/ "Fire of joy").
Iago proposes a toast to Otello and his wife, while Cassio praises Desdemona (Iago, Cassio, Chorus, Roderigo: Roderigo, beviam! / "Roderigo, let's drink!"). Iago offers Cassio more wine, but Cassio says he has had enough. Iago pressures him and offers a toast to Otello and Desdemona. Cassio gives in. Iago sings a drinking song and continues to pour Cassio wine (Iago, Cassio, Roderigo, chorus: Inaffia l'ugola! / "Wet your throat").
Montano enters and calls for Cassio to begin his watch; he is surprised to find Cassio drunk and barely able to stand upright. Iago lies to Montano, telling him that this is how Cassio spends every evening. Roderigo laughs at Cassio's drunkenness and Cassio attacks him. Montano tells Cassio to calm down, but Cassio draws his sword and threatens to crack open Montano's head. (Montano, Cassio, Iago, Roderigo, chorus: Capitano, v'attende la fazione ai baluardi / "Captain, the guard awaits you on the ramparts".) Cassio and Montano begin to duel, and Iago sends Roderigo to call the alarm. Montano is wounded and the fight is stopped only by the appearance of Otello.
Otello orders Montano and Cassio to lower their swords. He then asks "honest Iago" to explain how the duel began, but Iago says he doesn't know. Otello then turns to Cassio, who is embarrassed and cannot excuse his actions. When Otello discovers that Montano is wounded, he becomes enraged. Desdemona enters, and, upon seeing that his bride's rest has been disturbed, Otello declares that Cassio is no longer Captain. (Otello, Iago, Cassio, Montano: Abbasso le spade / "Down with your swords".) He tells Iago to patrol the town to restore quiet, calls for help for Montano and orders everyone to return to their houses.
The Cypriots leave Otello alone with Desdemona. Together Otello and Desdemona recall why they fell in love. Otello, in an ecstasy of joy, invites death, fearing that he will never know such happiness again. Desdemona prays that their love will remain unchanged. They kiss, overcome with love for each other. (Otello, Desdemona: Già nella notte densa s'estingue ogni clamor /"Now in the dark night all noise is silenced".)
A hall on the ground floor of the castle, divided by a glass partition from the garden at the back, with a balcony.
Iago suggests to Cassio that he should ask Desdemona to talk to Otello about his demotion; Desdemona can influence her husband to reinstate him (Iago, Cassio: Non ti crucciar / "Do not fret"). Desdemona and Emilia can be seen walking the garden. Cassio approaches Desdemona. Watching from the room, Iago voices his nihilistic beliefs and hatred of humankind (Credo in un Dio crudel / "I believe in a cruel God").
Otello enters the room; Iago, pretending not to notice him, says that he is deeply troubled. Cassio sees Otello from afar and goes discreetly away. Otello asks what's wrong, but Iago gives only vague answers. Finally, he hints that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. Otello begins to get suspicious, but declares that he needs proof before believing that Desdemona has been unfaithful. (Iago, Otello: Ciò m'accora... Che parli? / "That worries me..." "What did you say?") Iago warns Otello against jealousy, but also advises him to be vigilant.
A crowd of children, sailors, and Cypriots sing to Desdemona, praising her beauty and purity (Chorus, Iago, children, Desdemona, Otello: Dove guardi splendono raggi / "Wherever you look, brightness shines..."). They present her with gifts and wish her happiness before leaving.
Desdemona carries Cassio's request for reinstatement to Otello. Otello sourly tells her to ask him another time; as she persists, he grows impatient and says he has a headache. Desdemona offers to wrap his head in a handkerchief Otello once gave her, linen embroidered with strawberries. Otello throws it to the ground and says he doesn't need it (Desdemona, Otello: D'un uom che geme sotto il tuo disdegno la preghiera ti porto / "I bring a petition from one who suffers under your displeasure"). Emilia picks up the handkerchief. Desdemona asks for Otello's forgiveness. Aside, Iago demands that Emilia give him the handkerchief. When she refuses, Iago forcibly takes it from her.
Otello dismisses the others, and declares that he now believes that Desdemona may be deceiving him (Otello: Ora e per sempre addio sante memorie / "Now and forever farewell, holy memories"). Iago returns, and the jealous Otello demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago says that once, when he and Cassio were sleeping in the same room, he heard Cassio talking to Desdemona in a dream. In the dream, says Iago, Cassio told Desdemona that they must be careful to conceal their love. (Iago: Era la notte, Cassio dormia / "It was night, Cassio was sleeping".) Iago says that dreams don't prove anything, but remarks that he saw Cassio carrying Desdemona's strawberry-embroidered handkerchief just the day before. Otello swears vengeance on Desdemona and Cassio, and Iago joins him in his vow (Otello, Iago: Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro / "Yes, by the marble heavens I swear").
The great hall of the castle. To the right, a large colonnade leading to a smaller hall, in the back of which is a balcony. Othello and Iago talking in the hall as a herald enters.
A herald brings news of the approach of ambassadors from Venice. Iago explains to Otello that he will lure Cassio here and talk with him while Otello watches, hidden. He leaves to go get Cassio. (Iago: Qui trarrò Cassio / "Here I will bring Cassio".)
Desdemona enters and reminds Otello of Cassio's request. Otello says that his headache has returned, and asks Desdemona to wrap her handkerchief around his head. When Desdemona produces a different handkerchief, Otello demands the one with strawberries. When she says she does not have it, Otello says that it was a talisman, and troubles will befall her if she loses it. Desdemona says that he is trying to ignore Cassio's plea, and as she asks him about Cassio, he demands the handkerchief ever more insistently. (Desdemona, Otello: Dio ti giocondi, o sposo / "God keep you merry, husband".) Desdemona protests that she is faithful; Otello sends her away (Desdemona, Otello: Esterrefatta fisso lo sguardo tuo tremendo / "Terrified, I face your dreadful look").
Otello laments his fate (Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali / "God, you could have thrown every evil at me" ). When Iago calls out "Cassio is here!" Otello hides as Iago and Cassio enter. Cassio says he had hoped to see Desdemona here, for he wanted to know whether she had been successful with Otello (Iago, Cassio, Otello: Vieni; l'aula è deserta / "Come, the hall is deserted"). Iago asks him to tell of his adventures with that woman. Cassio asks which woman, and, softly, so that Otello cannot hear, Iago says "Bianca" (the name of Cassio's actual lover). As Cassio laughs about his romantic adventures, Otello assumes he is speaking of Desdemona. In a conversation only partially heard, Cassio seems to be telling Iago that another woman, a secret admirer, left him a handkerchief as a token. At Iago's urging, Cassio produces it, whereupon Iago seizes it—for it is Desdemona's—and holds it out where he knows Otello can see it. He then returns it to Cassio and teases him, while in his hiding place Otello fumes (Iago, Cassio, Otello: Questa è una ragna dove il tuo cuor casca / "This is a spiderweb in which your heart is caught").
Bugles sound, announcing the arrival of the Venetian ambassador, Lodovico. Iago warns Cassio that he should leave unless he wants to see Otello. Cassio exits, and Otello asks Iago how he should kill his wife. Iago advises Otello to kill Desdemona by suffocating her in her bed, while he will take care of Cassio. Otello promotes Iago to Captain.
Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia, Roderigo, and other dignitaries enter. When Lodovico notes Cassio's absence, Iago tells him that Cassio is out of favor. Desdemona interrupts, telling Lodovico that she hopes he will soon be restored. Otello calls her a demon and almost strikes her violently but is held back by Lodovico. Otello then calls for Cassio. (Lodovico, Otello, Desdemona, Emilia, Iago, chorus: Il Doge ed il Senato salutano l'eroe trionfatore / "The Doge and the Senate greet the triumphant hero".) Cassio enters and Otello reads (mixing in insults to Desdemona) a letter from the Doge, announcing that he (Otello) has been called back to Venice and Cassio is to succeed him as governor of Cyprus. Enraged, Otello throws Desdemona to the ground. (Otello, Roderigo, Iago, Cassio, Lodovico: Messeri! il Doge mi richiama a Venezia / "Gentlemen! The Doge recalls me to Venice".)
Desdemona, on the ground, laments (A terra! … sì … nel livido fango / "Fallen! yes, in the foul mud..."). The various characters express their feelings: Emilia and Lodovico express their sympathy for Desdemona, Cassio marvels at his sudden change of fortune, and Roderigo laments that Desdemona will soon depart. In separate asides, Iago urges Otello to take his revenge as soon as possible, while he will take care of Cassio. He advises Roderigo that the only way to prevent Desdemona from leaving is for Cassio, the new Duke, to die, and suggests that Roderigo murder Cassio that night. (Emilia, Cassio, Desdemona, Roderigo, Lodovico, Iago, Otello, chorus: Quell'innocente un fremito d'odio non ha nè un gesto / "That innocent one is without feeling or gesture of hatred"). In a fury, Otello orders everyone to leave. Desdemona goes to comfort him, but Lodovico pulls her away as Otello curses her. As the others leave, Otello raves about the handkerchief, then collapses. Iago presses Otello's forehead with his heel, then walks away. Outside the crowd of Cypriots calls out victory and glory for Otello. (Otello, Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio, Roderigo, Lodovico, Iago, chorus: Fuggite! / "Begone".)
Desdemona's bedchamber. A bed, a prie-dieu, a table, a mirror, some chairs. A light burns in front of an image of the Madonna which hangs above the prie-dieu. To the right is a door. On the table a light. It is night.
Desdemona is preparing for bed with the assistance of Emilia. She asks Emilia to put out the bridal gown she used on her wedding day, and says that if she dies, she wants to be buried in it. Emilia tells her not to talk about such things. Desdemona recalls how her mother's servant Barbara was abandoned by her lover, and how she used to sing the Willow Song (Desdemona: Piangea cantando nell'erma landa / "Singing, she wept on the lonely hearth"). After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays (Ave Maria) and then falls asleep.
Silently, Otello enters, with a sword. He kisses his wife three times; she awakens. Otello asks her if she has prayed tonight; she must die, and he does not wish to condemn her soul. She asks God for mercy, both for her and for Otello. Otello accuses her of sin, saying that he must kill her because she loves Cassio. Desdemona denies it and asks that he summon Cassio to testify to her innocence. Otello says that Cassio is already dead. Desdemona, horrified, pleads for mercy, but Otello tells her it's too late and strangles her (Otello, Desdemona: Diceste questa sera le vostre preci / "Have you said your prayers tonight?").
Emilia knocks at the door, (Emilia: Aprite! Aprite! / "Open up!") announcing that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Desdemona softly calls out that she has been unjustly accused, but refuses to blame Otello. She dies. Emilia calls Otello a murderer; he retorts that Iago gave him proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Otello begins to threaten Emilia, who calls for help. Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico enter. Emilia demands that Iago deny Otello's accusation; he refuses. Otello says that the handkerchief Desdemona gave to Cassio is proof enough. Emilia, horrified, explains that Iago stole the handkerchief from her—Cassio confirms that the handkerchief appeared mysteriously in his lodgings. Montano enters and says that Roderigo, with his dying breath, has revealed Iago's plot. Iago, brandishing his sword, runs away.
After he realizes what has happened, Otello grieves over Desdemona's death. Initially he draws his scimitar (Otello: Niun mi tema / "That none fear me") but then relinquishes it. He then stealthily draws a dagger from his robe (Otello: Ho un'arma ancor! / I still have another weapon!) and stabs himself. Others try to stop him, but it is too late. Before he dies, he drags himself next to his wife and kisses her (Otello: Un bacio...un bacio ancora...ah!...un altro bacio... / A kiss.. another kiss...ah...and yet another kiss). He lies dead next to Desdemona.
In 1894, Verdi composed a short ballet for a French production of Otello, which takes place during the third act that precedes the entrance of Lodovico. It is rarely performed as part of the opera.
Otello is scored for the following instruments:
In the orchestra: 3 flutes (the third doubles as a piccolo), 2 oboes, 1 english horn, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 cornets, 2 trumpets, 4 trombones, 1 harp, percussion (timpani, cymbals, bass drum, gong, thunder machine), strings (violin I and II, viola, cello, double bass)
Offstage: 6 trumpets, 4 trombones, organ, bagpipes, mandolins, guitars
Othello is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603. It is based on the story Un Capitano Moro by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565. The story revolves around its two central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army and his unfaithful ensign, Iago. Given its varied and enduring themes of racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and repentance, Othello is still often performed in professional and community theatre alike, and has been the source for numerous operatic, film, and literary adaptations.
Falstaff is a comic opera in three acts by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. The work premiered on 9 February 1893 at La Scala, Milan.
Arrigo Boito, was an Italian poet, journalist, novelist, librettist and composer, best known today for his libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi's operas Otello and Falstaff, and his own opera Mefistofele. Along with Emilio Praga, and his own brother Camillo Boito he is regarded as one of the prominent representatives of the Scapigliatura artistic movement.
Iago is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello. Iago is the play's main antagonist, and Othello's standard-bearer. He is the husband of Emilia, who is in turn the attendant of Othello's wife Desdemona. Iago hates Othello and devises a plan to destroy him by making him believe that his wife is having an affair with his lieutenant, Michael Cassio.
Desdemona is a character in William Shakespeare's play Othello. Shakespeare's Desdemona is a Venetian beauty who enrages and disappoints her father, a Venetian senator, when she elopes with Othello, a Moorish man several years her senior. When her husband is deployed to Cyprus in the service of the Republic of Venice, Desdemona accompanies him. There, her husband is manipulated by his ensign Iago into believing she is an adulteress, and, in the last act, she is murdered by her estranged spouse.
Otello is an opera in three acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsa. The work is based on a French adaptation of the story, not Shakespeare's play Othello as neither Rossini nor his librettist knew the English drama.
Othello is a 1995 film based on William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name. It was directed by Oliver Parker and stars Laurence Fishburne as Othello, Irène Jacob as Desdemona, and Kenneth Branagh as Iago. This is the first cinematic reproduction of the play released by a major studio that casts an African American actor to play the role of Othello, although low-budget independent films of the play starring Ted Lange and Yaphet Kotto predated it.
Emilia is a character in the tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare. The character's origin is traced to the 1565 tale, "Un capitano Moro" from Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's Gli Hecatommithi. There, the character is described as young and virtuous, is referred to simply as the ensign's wife, and becomes Desdemona's companion in Cyprus. In Shakespeare, she is named Emilia, is the wife of Othello's ensign, Iago, and is an attendant to Othello's wife, Desdemona. While considered a minor character in the drama, she has been portrayed by several notable actresses on film, with Joyce Redman receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance.
Michael Cassio, or simply Cassio, is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's Othello. The source of the character is the 1565 tale "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio; Cassio is unnamed in Cinthio but referred to as "the squadron leader". In the play, Cassio is a young and handsome lieutenant under Othello's command who becomes one of Iago's several victims in a plot to ruin Othello.
Bianca is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's Othello (c. 1601–1604). She is Cassio's jealous lover. Despite her brief appearance on stage, Bianca plays a significant role in the progress of Iago's scheme to incite Othello's jealousy of Cassio. Bianca is traditionally regarded as a courtesan, although this occupation is not specifically designated in the drama. The character was occasionally cut from performances in the 19th century on moral grounds. Bianca is not to be confused with Bianca Minola in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
Otello is a 1986 film based on the Giuseppe Verdi opera of the same name, which was itself based on the Shakespearean play Othello. The film was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starred Plácido Domingo in the title role, Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona and Justino Díaz as Iago. For the movie's soundtrack, Lorin Maazel conducted the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala. The film premiered in West Germany on 28 August 1986 and received a U.S. theatrical release on 12 September 1986. It was nominated for a Bafta Award and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
Roderigo is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Othello (c.1601-1604), where he serves as the secondary antagonist of the play. He is a dissolute Venetian lusting after Othello's wife Desdemona. Roderigo has opened his purse to Iago in the mistaken belief that Iago is using his money to pave the way to Desdemona's bed. When the assassination of Michael Cassio runs amiss, Iago fatally wounds Roderigo.
Othello is a 1990 film produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring Ian McKellen, Willard White, Imogen Stubbs, and Zoë Wanamaker. It is based on a stage production of William Shakespeare's play Othello, directed by Trevor Nunn, and later rethought for TV and filmed in a studio. It was shot in a black box theater, so minimal props or scenery were needed, and aired 23 June 1990 on Theatre Night.
After Aida is a 1985 play-with-music by Julian Mitchell. It is about Giuseppe Verdi, and the pressure put upon him after his attempt to retire from composing. Continued insistent prodding from his friends eventually results in one of his greatest masterpieces, the opera Otello, which premiered in 1887.
The figure of Othello from the tragic play by William Shakespeare has appeared in many examples of popular culture since being authored by Shakespeare in the early 16th century.