Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Otello. It was last on stage 12–24 July 2012.
The Moorish general Otello has been appointed Governor of Cyprus and married the beautiful young Venetian Desdemona. But their happiness is threatened when Otello's ensign Iago begins to hint that Desdemona has been unfaithful.
The premiere of Otello in 1887 was a major event. Giuseppe Verdi – the most famous Italian opera composer of his day – was 73 and had not written an opera for 16 years. His adaptation of Shakespeare’s play was instantly acclaimed and is considered by many to be one of his greatest works. The subtlety and range of Otello’s score capture Shakespeare’s poetry and display all Verdi’s talents as a music dramatist.
Otello opens with a storm at sea, accompanied by a burst of orchestral dissonance. In Iago, Verdi conjures up a terrifying portrait of evil. Iago's nihilistic worldview is expressed in his devastating ‘Credo’, contrasting with the purity and beauty of Desdemona’s music. The deterioration of her marriage with Otello is mapped in three duets, from the ecstatic love duet in Act I to the harrowing final exchange in Act III. Elijah Moshinsky’s masterly production was created in 1987 with Plácido Domingo in the title role. It uses Renaissance designs to capture an atmosphere of opulence and evil in which the tragedy is played out.
News and features
21 May 2015
The composer of La traviata, Macbeth and Otello consolidated and innovated the opera of his time.
Otello ([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. 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. 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 premièred in Milan on 5 February 1887, it proved to be a resounding success, and further stagings of Otello soon followed at leading theatres throughout Europe and America.