Otello, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Othello, was first performed in December 1816. Desdemona has pledged to marry Otello the Moor whom she loves. Otello’s jealous and faithless friend Iago plots to destroy him by intercepting a letter Desdemona has written to Otello but not written his name. Iago shows it to Otello claiming she wrote it to another lover. Jealousy overwhelms Otello, he confronts her and kills her just before a messenger arrives who reveals the plot to him. He then kills himself in remorse. No happy endings here!
Rossini had been living in Naples for some time and writing operas. Otelo was the second of ten serious operas he wrote between 1815 and 1822. This group of operas were transformational in changing the light joyous C18th style of opera to the C19th style of more serious opera-drama. It is also a tenor’s dream as all the main male roles are tenors. John Osborn sang the vacillating Ottello with Peter Kalman as the sly Elmiro and Javier Camarena the faithless friend. Desdemona was sung by Cecilia Bartoli. Our recording is the most recent DVD production from the Zurich Opera in 2012.
In April we listened to Giordano’s opera, “Andrea Chenier”.
This opera was written in 1896 and continues the C19th tradition of composers looking for drama in actual events or situations that are common to their times. The French Revolution [1789 – 1799 ] offers many awful opportunities for a composer to explore revolution, betrayal, brutality and love. In a way the revolution was far more dreadful than any composer could envisage 90 years later. The drama is tempered by the love story between the poet Andrea Chenier, a supporter of the revolution and his love Maddalena, the daughter of a Count, a member of a class that is being exterminated by the revolutionaries because of their indifference and cruelty to the middle class and the poor.
There is no Scarlet Pimpernel in this opera to save the two doomed lovers, but we thrilled to the voices of Jonas Kaufmann singing the role of Chenier, the Serbian tenor Zeljko Lucic as Gerard and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Maddalena. This is a Royal Opera House DVD originally performed in London in 2015.