Otello ©2017 ROH. Photographed by Catherine Ashmore


922 December 2019
The performance lasts about 3 hours 10 minutes, including one interval
Main Stage
Opera and music

Light and dark, good and evil: Keith Warner’s production focuses on the violent conflicts at the core of Otello’s story. Boris Kudlicka’s semi-abstract sets and Kaspar Glarner’s costumes mirror the contrasting innocence of Desdemona and malevolence of Iago. Warner sensitively examines the relationships between Moors, Turks and Westerners in Shakespeare’s time to highlight Otello feeling an outsider in his society, which contributes to his loss of confidence and gradual mental collapse.

Otello was Verdi’s penultimate opera. Although he had claimed to have retired after Aida in 1871, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to set a text by his favourite poet, Shakespeare. His publisher, Giulio Ricordi, suggested he use the writer and composer Arrigo Boito as his librettist. Verdi was delighted by Boito’s subtle and sensitive text, which drew from him some wonderful and varied music. Highlights include Otello and Desdemona’s beautiful Act I love duet, Iago’s nihilistic Act II ‘Credo’, the grandeur of the final scenes of Act III and the terrible intimacy of Act IV from Desdemona’s forebodings to Otello’s crime of passion. Otello had a triumphant premiere in 1887 at La Scala, Milan, and Verdi and Boito went on to collaborate on Verdi’s final operatic masterpiece, Falstaff.

Approximate running times
Act I and Act II : 1 hour 15 minutes
Interval: 30 minutes
Act III and Act IV: 1 hour 20 minutes
Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Position of Music Director Maestro Antonio Pappano generously supported by

Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE.

Generous philanthropic support from

Marina Hobson OBE, Spindrift Al Swaidi, The Taylor Family Foundation and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund.



The treacherous ensign Iago vows to destroy the Moorish general Otello. He hatches a plot to disgrace Otello’s captain Cassio, then hints to Otello that Cassio and Otello’s young wife Desdemona are having an affair.

Iago’s insinuations, coupled with Desdemona’s innocent pleas for Cassio’s pardon, convince Otello that his wife has betrayed him. His perceptions increasingly warped by jealousy, Otello decides that there is only one thing that he can do: kill his wife to restore his honour.


CompanyThe Royal Opera

MusicGiuseppe Verdi

LibrettoArrigo Boito

DirectorKeith Warner

Set designerBoris Kudlicka

Costume designerKaspar Glarner

Lighting designerBruno Poet

Movement directorMichael Barry

Fight directorRan Arthur Braun


There is lift access and step-free seating to most levels of the Main Stage auditorium, except the Orchestra Stalls, which are reached by a minimum of nine steps. There are more than 100 seats in the Stalls Circle, Balcony and Amphitheatre which are accessible without the need to negotiate steps. In addition, many seats in these areas and in the Donald Gordon Grand Tier and Orchestra Stalls are accessible by 10 steps or fewer. Find out more about accessing the Main Stage Auditorium.