However, the opera deviates heavily from Shakespeare's original, not only in that it takes place in Venice and not on Cyprus, but also in that the whole dramatic conflict develops in a different manner. The role of Iago is reduced to some degree, and it is much less diabolical than in the original or in Verdi's Otello of 1887. In further contrast, the role of Rodrigo, of subsidiary importance in Shakespeare and Verdi, is very prominent in Rossini's version and is assigned some of the most difficult and brilliant music. The roles of Otello, Iago, and Rodrigo are all composed for the tenor voice.
Rossini's Otello is an important milestone in the development of opera as musical drama. It provided Giuseppe Verdi with a benchmark for his own adaptations of Shakespeare. A recent Opera Rara CD of the opera includes an alternative happy ending, a common practice with drama and opera at that period of the 19th Century.
The first performance took place at the Teatro del Fondo in Naples on 4 December 1816. It was given its UK premiere on 16 May 1822 at the King's Theatre in London and its American premiere at the Park Theatre in New York on 7 February 1826.
20th century and beyond
In addition to studio recordings for labels such as Opera Rara, in the 20 years between 1957 and 2008, the recordings database, operadis, reports recordings of 12 different live performances given in a variety of locations. Operabase, the performance database, shows Otello performances given (or to be given) going forward from January 2011, with 36 presentations of eight productions in eight cities.
In October 2012, Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico presented three performances of the opera. The first performance presented both the original and the alternative "happy" ending. Prior to the subsequent performances, the audience voted as to which one they preferred and the chosen version was the one which was performed.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 4 December 1816
(Conductor: - )
|The Doge of Venice||tenor||Gaetano Chizzola|
|A gondolier||tenor||Nicola Mollo|
- Place: Venice
- Time: End of the 18th Century
Opera House and Orchestra
Frederica Von Stade,
|Jesus Lopez Cobos,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra
|Audio CD: Philips
Cat: 432 456-2
Ezio Di Cesare,
Orchestra and Chorus of RAI Torino
(Video recording of a performance in the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, August)
Juan José Lopera,
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
|Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC 18
Virtuosi Brunensis and the Transilvania Philharmonic Choir
(Recorded at a performance at the Rossini in Wildbad festival)
|Audio CD: Naxos,
- Gossett and Brauner, in Holden, p. 779
- Performances on Rossini's Otello on operabase.com Note: this site is updated frequently as new performances are reported. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Opera Southwest's Past Performances on operasouthwest.org. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Brian Kellow, "Opera Southwest mounts Rossini's seldom-heard Otello - with your choice of endings", Opera News (New York), September 2012, on operasouthwest.com. Retrieved 2 September 2013
- Recordings of Otello on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Gossett, Philip; Brauner, Patricia (2001), "Otello" in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
- Osborne, Richard, Rossini (1990), Ithaca, New York: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-088-5
- Osborne, Richard (1998), Otello, in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Three. pp. 789 – 790. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Toye, Francis (1997 re-print), Rossini: The Man and His Music, Dover Publications, 1987. ISBN 0486253961 ISBN 0-486-25396-1,
- Othello: a tragic opera in two acts, as performed at the New York Theatre by Francesco Maria Berio, Gioacchino Rossini, Francesco Berio di Salsa, William Shakespeare; Contributors: Edward M Murden, Daniel Fanshaw; (published by E.M. Murden, no. 4 Chambers-Street, for the New-York Theatre. D. Fanshaw, printer., 1826)
- Othello: a tragic opera in two acts as performed by the Garcia Troupe in New York in 1826, and the Italian Company of the Chestnut Street Theatre in 1833 by Gioacchino Rossini, Francesco Berio di Salsa, Francesco Maria Berio, William Shakespeare (published by Neal, 1833)