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GoDirect AM - Otello

Otello

Otello

“Otello” is an opera in 4 acts by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare’s “Othello”. It was the second-to-last opera written by the composer, and it premiered at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on February 5th, 1887. Verdi composed it some years after “Aida” (which premiered in 1871), since he had decided that would be his last composition before he retired.

But his editor, Giulio Ricordi, thought Verdi’s retirement would be a waste of talent, given the fact that the composer’s music was hugely popular in Italy during the 1870s. Aware of how important dramatic aspects were for Verdi in an opera, Ricordi knew that he had to find a libretto that attracted his interest. Therefore, Ricordi and a friend of Verdi’s, conductor Franco Faccio, suggested Verdi the idea of a new opera based on a play by Shakespeare, whose work Verdi was a great admirer of — “Othello”. At the same time, they suggested librettist Arrigo Boito, who was also a big fan of Shakespeare’s work. After some initial resistance by Verdi, Boito finished a libretto for the opera, and the production of “Otello” finally started. At first, Verdi titled it “Iago” in order to avoid a coincidence with the famous opera by Rossini.

Finally, in a letter written to the librettist, the composer admitted that he would opt for Shakespeare’s title, since he would prefer to have people say “He has tried to be on a par with the giant [Rossini], but he has failed”, rather than murmur “He has hidden behind the name of Iago”.

In “Otello”, Verdi shows his maturity as an artist.  Together with “Aida” and “Falstaff” (1893), “Otello” is considered by critics as one of the composer’s masterpieces. Verdi abandoned the structure divided into arias and recitatives for this work, achieving a sense of unity and continuity all along the opera. The three leading roles in the opera — Desdemona, Iago, and Otello — are among the most demanding parts ever written by Verdi, both vocally and dramatically.


ARTISTIC TEAM
Stage director: Giulio Ciabatti
Stage director (reposition): Oscar Cecchi
Set designer: Pier Paolo Bisleri
Costume designer: Chiara Barrichello
Lightning: Iuraj Saleri
Lightning (reposition): Nino Napolitano

ATELIERS / SUPPLIERS
Costumes: FARANI SARTORIA TEATRALE di Piccolo Luigino
Props: E. RANCATI S.r.l.
Shoes: POMPEI 2000 s.r.l.
Wigs: ROBERTO PAGLIALUNGA & C. S.n.c.
Jewellery: JEWEL HOUSE
Pyrotechnic effects: EFFETTI SPECIALI di Guerini Flavio & C. S.a.s.

CAST
Otello: Tenor
Desdemona: Soprano
Emilia: Mezzo-Soprano
Cassio:  Tenor
Roderigo: Tenor
Iago: Baritone
Montano: Bass
Lodovico: Bass
 

The opera is set on the island of Cyprus, in the late 15th century.

ACT 1
Exterior of the castle in which Otello resides, in front of a harbour

On a stormy night, the people of Cyprus anxiously await the arrival of the new governor, Otello, from the battle with the Turks. Otello arrives safely and announces that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed. Everyone cheers except for Otello’s ensign, Iago, who wants revenge against him, since one of his rivals, Cassio, has been appointed to be the captain, a position that Iago hoped to have.

Iago starts weaving a plot to do away with Otello, fanning the secret desires of Roderigo, a gentleman of Venice, towards Otello’s wife, Desdemona, and telling him that captain Cassio nurses the same feelings for her. Later, in a tavern, Iago forces Cassio to drink until he is inebriated. Montano enters, and he is surprised to find Cassio drunk. Iago explains to him that this is how Cassio spends every evening. Soon thereafter, Iago causes a confrontation between Roderigo and drunken Cassio, and when Montano intervenes, he is wounded by Cassio. Iago rings the alarm, which makes the event escalate into a riot.

Attracted by the shouts, Otello enters, furious and fooled by Iago. When he discovers Montano is wounded, he declares that Cassio is no longer captain. In the meantime, Desdemona joins her husband. Otello restores calm, and once the two of them are alone, they remember why they fell in love, kiss, and then return to the castle.

ACT 2
A chamber on the ground floor of the castle, with a door opening into the garden.

Iago suggests Cassio should ask Desdemona to intercede for him before Otello, in order for him to recover his honour. In the meantime, Iago voices his nihilistic beliefs, beginning to describe his maker, a cruel demon that suggests evil ideas to him (“Credo”). When Otello returns, Iago voices some insinuations about Desdemona’s fidelity, while they are watching her with Emilia (Iago’s wife) and Cassio.

A crowd of women, children, and sailors present Desdemona with flowers, and her beauty weakens Otello’s suspicions. Still, when she carries Cassio’s request for reinstatement to Otello, the general becomes completely irritable. Desdemona tries to calm him down wrapping his forehead with a handkerchief that Otello once gave her, but he furiously throws it to the ground. Desdemona declares her devotion to Otello, while Iago forcibly takes the handkerchief from Emilia, who had picked it up. When the woman leaves, Otello accuses Iago of distorting his mental health. Otello is jealous, but he demands proof of Desdemona’s treason. Iago hints at some compromising words that Cassio had pronounced in his sleep, and he claims to have seen a handkerchief that Otello had once given to Desdemona in Cassio’s hands. That is the proof that Otello needed, and, helped by Iago, he swears vengeance.

ACT 3
The great hall of the castle.

Iago explains to Otello that he will lure Cassio and talk to him while Otello listens, hidden. He leaves to go get Cassio. Desdemona enters and Otello hints at his suspicions, but she does not understand what her husband is trying to tell her and reminds Otello of Cassio’s request. In reply to this, Otello demands the handkerchief that he once gave her as a talisman. Since Desdemona cannot produce it, Otello calls her a courtesan. Desdemona inconsolably swears that she is innocent, but her husband sends her away. When Otello hears that Cassio and Iago are approaching the hall, the general hides. Waving the handkerchief, Iago alters Cassio’s jokes about his true lover, Bianca, making Otello believe that they are speaking about Desdemona in a conversation only partially heard by him. Cassio leaves when bugles announce the arrival of the Venetian dignitaries. Otello determines to kill his wife, while Iago will take care of Cassio.

The court enters the great hall to welcome Lodovico, the Doge’s ambassador.  Lodovico notices Cassio’s absence, and Iago tells him that Cassio is out of favour, but Desdemona adds that he will soon be restored. Enraged, Otello calls her a demon. Otello calls for Cassio and announces that he (Otello) has been called back to Venice and Cassio is to succeed him as governor of Cyprus. Cassio announces that he will obey. When Desdemona approaches him, Otello, losing control, throws her to the ground. She begs him to forgive her purported crime. Iago goes on with his plot, telling Otello that tonight is the night to take revenge and then sending Roderigo to murder Cassio. Otello curses Desdemona and orders the terrified attendants to leave. Otello raves and then collapses. With a gesture of triumph, Iago ironically salutes him as the “Lion of Venice”, echoing in a burlesque manner the shouts that extol the general’s virtues from outside.

ACT 4
Desdemona’s chamber.

Desdemona and Emilia are preparing for bed, and Desdemona sings a song about a servant named Barbara, who was left by his lover. After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays (Ave Maria) and then falls asleep. Otello enters the chamber, awakening Desdemona. Otello asks her if she has prayed and tells her to prepare for death, accusing her of sin, because she loves Cassio. Desdemona denies it and pleads for mercy, but Otello tells her that it is too late and strangles her. Emilia comes back with the news that Roderigo has died trying to murder Cassio. Desdemona softly calls out that she has been unjustly accused, and then dies. When Emilia sees Desdemona dead, she calls Otello a murderer and shouts that he has killed an innocent woman. Otello retorts that Iago gave him proof of Desdemona’s infidelity and begins to threaten Emilia, who calls for help. Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico enter. Emilia demands that Iago deny Otello’s accusation, but he refuses. Emilia, horrified, reproaches him for his intrigues, and Iago runs away from the chamber. After he realizes what has happened and that he had been fooled, Otello grieves over Desdemona’s death and stabs himself. Before he dies, Otello drags himself next to his wife and kisses her. He lies dead next to Desdemona.

TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS
•  The stage area must be free of any elements in fly space and on stage
•  The plan of the stage rigs must be available
•  The set design requires tying up and hanging

TRANSPORT
•  Set design and costumes are transported in 3 trailers

La Voz de Galicia

“The opening of the Festival Amigos de la Ópera featuring Verdi’s ‘Otello’ has set a very high standard for the remaining performances…”

Antón de Santiago, La Voz de Galicia, September 4th, 2010

La Voz de Galicia

 “… the scenographic style, which could be defined as minimalistic and neoclassical, served as a support for a list of artists that included some elements of the operatic reservoir of the city …”.
(…)
“All this artistic and technical display had the enhanced incentive that the performance could be considered a premiere, since stage director Oscar Cecchi himself had hinted at the fact that in A Coruña new elements would be seen that had not been used in the performances that had taken place in Trieste”.
(…)
“On Sunday there will be another opportunity to be delighted by Otello’s tragedy, although the other two thousand tickets are already sold out”.
(…)
“Yesterday the same story [Otello] was told but, this time, elements such as the set design and the powerful voices of Arteta and Berti allowed this classic to sound as if it were new”.
Ángel Varela, La Voz de Galicia, September 3rd, 2010
 

El Ideal Gallego

“Fully coinciding with the public’s taste, the performance of Verdi’s “Otello”, or the prelude of the Festival de Ópera, turned out to be a resounding success. The Palacio de la Ópera was packed with spectators that paid close attention to the performance during the three hours and a half and gave the artists a standing ovation at the end…”

Fernández Alabalat, El Ideal Gallego, September 6th, 2012
 

El Ideal Gallego

 “’Otello’ was a success that was attended by over 700 people that gladly ‘endured’ the performance, which was exquisite thanks both to its set design and the acting skills of the artists”. (…) “In short, next Sunday opera lovers have another date with a ‘must-see’ show. It is a pity that some people have not been able to buy a ticket, but it is a resounding success for both producers and artists”.

M. Pérez, El Ideal Gallego, September 3rd, 2010