• James Waters Classical

Day 339 - My Favourite Opera, Verdi's Otello

It is one of the stranger facts about the operatic repertoire that almost no truly great plays have been made into great opera libretti. There is no great Hamlet (there is Ambroise Thomas but...), and no great Lear. Verdi's Schiller Operas get close, but the plays aren't in the end quite there. Verdi has two great Shakespearian works. The first is Macbeth and the second is my favourite - Otello. There is an argument that it is more concise and dramatically intense than the original play. Beginning with an astonishing storm (when Decca recorded this they stole a 64ft organ note from LIverpool cathedral!, via one of the greatest of all love duets we are led into the demonic plotting of Iago via his darkly black Credo. Otello's love turns to hate as Iago whispers the poison of jealousy in his ear. Misled, Otello denounces Desdemona in front of all Cyprus and then murders her in secret only to discover that she was innocent and the opera ends with Otello's suicide. It is not a long opera, but is dramatically incredibly tightly composed with not a wasted bar. Nothing is more haunting than Desdemona's willow song delivered as she feels a premonition of her end. This work has never been off my desert island list.


Full video of Otello with Placido Domingo watch here

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