Otello, Opera by G. Verdi
After the amazing success of Aida in 1871, Giuseppe Verdi felt his contribution to the world of opera was complete and retreated from active musical work. It was the great enthusiasm and coaxing of music publisher Giulio Ricordi, conductor Franco Faccio and librettist Arrigo Boito to bring the Maestro back for a couple of more masterpieces. The first of them was Otello, an epic opera based on the drama by William Shakespeare. To make his comeback to opera all the more special, Verdi would shake off the constraints of opera seria and explore new ways of storytelling through music. The result of his creative endeavours, as guests of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence will see, was one for the books.
Otello is the momentous meeting point of two outstanding artists: the legendary English playwright William Shakespeare and Maestro Giuseppe Verdi. The composer had long admired the work of the Bard. Ricordi, Faccio and Boito used this fact to their advantage. Thus, the high dramatic charge and fame of the play Othello likely played a major role in convincing Verdi to embark on this major project. His close collaboration with Boito started in 1879. After a prolonged creative and revision process, the premiere took place on 5 February 1887 at the famed Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Ricordi, Faccio and Boito’s instincts proved correct: Verdi was still an undeniable master of opera, and the performance was a tremendous success.
Verdi’s Otello follows the original plotline of Shakespeare’s play closely. Othello, the Moorish governor of Cyprus, is madly in love with his wife Desdemona. His evil ensign Iago looks to exploit his master’s emotions and concocts the appearance of infidelity. Othello’s jealousy and rage grow by the minute, and Iago pulls ever more courtiers into his intrigue to arrive at a shocking and tragic ending. Verdi’s Otello is musically complex and wonderful. The main characters’ vocal and acting parts are easily the composer’s most challenging, and watching a new generation of singers rise to the occasion makes the performance in Florence all the more special.