Otello (Rossini)

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Otello is an opera in three acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsi, based on Shakespeare's play Othello.

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.

Performance history[edit]

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3][4]

Also in 2012, the opera was staged in Zurich by the Vlaamse Opera. The same production was given in Ghent and Antwerp in February and March 2014. [5] Buxton Festival presented the opera in concert form in July 2014.[6]


Maria Malibran as Desdemona by François Bouchot (1834)
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 4 December 1816
(Conductor: - )
Otello tenor Andrea Nozzari
Desdemona mezzo-soprano Isabella Colbran
Rodrigo tenor Giovanni David
Jago tenor Giuseppe Ciccimarra
Emilia mezzo-soprano Maria Manzi
Elmiro bass Michele Benedetti
The Doge of Venice tenor Gaetano Chizzola
Lucio tenor Nicola Mollo
A gondolier tenor Nicola Mollo


Place: Venice
Time: End of the 18th Century

Related Works[edit]

Franz Liszt based the Canzone from the Années de Pèlerinage supplement Venezia e Napoli on the offstage gondolier's song "Nessun maggior dolore" from this opera.


Year Cast:
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [7]
1978 José Carreras,
Frederica Von Stade,
Gianfranco Pastine,
Salvatore Fisichella
Jesus Lopez Cobos,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra
Audio CD: Philips
Cat: 432 456-2
1988 Chris Merritt,
June Anderson,
Ezio Di Cesare,
Rockwell Blake
John Pritchard,
Orchestra and Chorus of RAI Torino
(Video recording of a performance in the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, August)
DVD: Encore
DVD 2223
1999 Bruce Ford,
Elizabeth Futral,
Juan José Lopera,
William Matteuzzi
David Parry,
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC 18
2008 Michael Spyres,
Jessica Pratt,
Giorgio Trucco,
Filippo Adami
Antonino Fogliani,
Virtuosi Brunensis and the Transilvania Philharmonic Choir
(Recorded at a performance at the Rossini in Wildbad festival)
Audio CD: Naxos,
Cat: 8.660275-76



  1. ^ Gossett and Brauner, in Holden, p. 779
  2. ^ Performances on Rossini's Otello on operabase.com Note: this site is updated frequently as new performances are reported. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  3. ^ Opera Southwest's Past Performances on operasouthwest.org. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ "Rossini's Otello" in the 'Past Production Report' section of London's Donizetti Society website
  6. ^ Hugill, Robert (21 July, 2014). "Rossini's Otello (Review of Buxton Festival Concert Performance)". 
  7. ^ Recordings of Otello on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk


External links[edit]