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Reputation, reputation, reputation! - An examination of the two Italian Othellos

Opera Prelude Spring Season 2016

Venue: Caversham Room at Cadogan Hall

Performers

Paola Cuffolo
mezzo-soprano
Alice Privett
soprano
Natalie Burch
piano

Verdi’s Otello has gone down in the operatic canon as the epitome of his late style, a masterpiece that encapsulates the essence of not only Shakespeare’s Moor, but Desdemona and Iago too. His reverence for the Bard is well documented; his greatest regret that he never completed his opera of King Lear.

However, before all of that, there was another Otello. Rossini’s version was not, and is still not, among his most popular works. In this day and age, where Shakespeare’s Othello is the only Othello, Rossini’s reputation in this regard is seen by some as being a poor man’s Verdi. But Rossini’s aims with his Otello were radically different: it’s based on a different text, set in a different place, written in an entirely different way.

This lecture will examine the differences between Verdi and Rossini’s Otellos, and look at their relative merits and innovations, in order to decide whether Rossini’s negative reputation is truly deserved.

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