Recorded on 12/31/1969, uploaded on 04/09/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
With the success of Aida, Giuseppe Verdi planned to end his career as one of Italy’s most successful operatic composers. Yet, as any admirer of Verdi’s music will know, two more operas followed—Otello and Falstaff—and it is largely Verdi’s publisher, Giulio Ricordi, that deserves the credit for Verdi’s return from retirement and bringing the first of these operas into the world. Ricordi thought Verdi’s retirement premature, a waste of his talents and, even more importantly, of profits. Thus, he set out with a plan to coax Verdi out of retirement.
Knowing the importance Verdi placed on the dramatic elements of opera, Ricordi knew that he had to find the right libretto with which to tempt the composer. Also knowing that Verdi greatly admired the plays of William Shakespeare, Othello was selected because of its straightforward plot. With the aid of Verdi’s friend Franco Faccio, the two subtly presented the idea to Verdi over dinner at his home. A few days later, the librettist Arrigo Boito presented Verdi with an outline of a libretto based on Shakespeare’s play. Though interested, Verdi initially displayed skepticism towards the project and little work was accomplished. However, once Verdi realized Boito’s abilities as a librettist, he became increasingly more dedicated to the project.
Aspects and preparation of the opera, which originally was to be titled Iago after the play’s villain, were kept a secret right up until its premiere, and Verdi even maintained the right to cancel the performance at the last minute. However, word of a new opera by the retired Verdi inevitably reached the public creating a buzz of expectancy. The premiere, on February 5, 1887 at La Scala, nearly 15 years to the day after that of Aida, was an outstanding success with Verdi giving twenty curtain calls at its conclusion.
Considered today to be his most dramatic and mature opera, Otello is somewhat different in approach than its predecessors. Verdi, to a degree, adopted the practices of Richard Wagner in doing away with the standard set-pieces of recitatives and arias. Though, the distinctions are still more discernible in Otello than in any of the works of his German counterpart. Furthermore, the orchestra in Otello also plays a much larger role than in Verdi’s previous operas, being here elevated above the role of mere accompaniment to an important aspect in the portrayal of the narrative.
The brief recitative Esultate! L’orgoglio musulmano is Othello’s entrance in Act I. On a stormy night, the people of Cyprus anxiously await their new governor who has defeated the Turks in battle. He arrives safely announcing the defeat of the Turkish fleet and the people cheer in response. Joseph DuBose
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