Summary of Giuseppe Verdi. Othello


Opera in four acts

Libretto by A. Boito


Othello, the Moor, the commander of the Venetian

The Republic

Iago, the standard-bearer

Cassio, Captain

Roderigo, the Venetian patrician

Ludovico, the ambassador of the Venetian Republic

Montano, the predecessor of Othello in

Management of the island of Cyprus


Desdemona, the wife of Othello

Emilia, wife of Iago









Mezzo soprano

Soldiers, sailors of the Venetian Republic, inhabitants of Cyprus, servants, people.

The action takes place in a seaside town on the island of Cyprus at the end of the XV century.



August 1879, librettist A. Boito (1842-1918) introduced Verdi to the sketches of his libretto on the Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello (1604). The composer approvingly approached them, but he did not give permission to write the opera. Boito, who bowed before the genius of Verdi and dreamed of cooperation with him, persistently insisted and soon brought the composer a complete libretto. Only at the beginning of 1881 Verdi set to work on an essay that stretched for a long time. The composer sought to create a work worthy of his literary source. Shakespeare was his favorite writer. Back in the forties, Verdi wrote the opera Macbeth, to which he returned after nearly 20 years; For many years he worked on “King Lear”, but, not satisfied with the libretto, destroyed, as assumed, already prepared opera, partly using her music in other works; The last creation of Verdi is connected with Shakespeare – the comic opera Falstaff.

In the creation of the libretto “Othello” Verdi had a leading role. According to his instructions, Boito several times changed the plan, re-wrote entire scenes. Shakespeare’s

plot underwent significant changes. The composer concentrated the action around the main conflict – the clashes between Othello and Iago, giving it a universal human sound, freeing the intrigue from small domestic details.

Having finished the composition in November 1886, Verdi took a direct part in his production. The premiere took place on February 5, 1887 in Milan and resulted in the true triumph of Italian national art. Soon this opera was recognized throughout the world as the best, most perfect creation of Verdi.


“Othello” – a musical tragedy, striking truthfulness and depth of the embodiment of human characters. An unusual relief and dramatic force are the musical portraits of Othello, the hero and warrior, the passionate loving spouse, the person of the gullible and at the same time fierce in his rage, meek and pure Desdemona, the treacherous Iago who tramples all moral laws. Choral episodes complete the images of the main characters, expressing the attitude of the people towards them. An important role in the opera is played by an orchestra that conveys an emotional, atmosphere of events, an exceptional wealth of psychological shades.

The first act opens with a grandiose vocal-symphonic picture of the storm, which immediately introduces into the thick of intense struggle, sharp clashes. The top of this dynamic scene is Othello’s appearance, accompanied by a joyful chorus. In the scene of the feast, the quaint chorus of “Joy of Flame” melodies and a picturesque orchestral accompaniment as if drawing flames of festive bonfires. The drinking song of Iago is permeated with acrid sarcasm. Othello’s duet and Desdemona’s “The Dark Night Has Come”, preceded by the soulful sound of solo cellos, abounds in melodic melodies. At the end of the duet, a passionate, ecstatic melody of love appears in the orchestra.

In the second act, the central place is occupied by the characteristics of Iago and Othello. The image of Iago – a strong, not knowing oscillation, but emotionally devastated man – is embodied in the great monologue “I Believe in the Creator of the Cruel”; in hard, determined musical phrases a hidden mockery sounds, amplified by the orchestral accompaniment (in the end, an explosion of sarcastic laughter is heard). An expressive contrast creates the Cypriot chorus “You’ll see – everything will glisten”, emphasizing the purity and purity of Desdemona; The enlightened character of music is created by the sound of children’s voices, the transparent accompaniment of mandolins and guitars. In the quartet (Desdemona, Emilia, Othello and Iago), the melodies of Desdemona full of tranquil nobility oppose Othello’s worried, sorrowful phrases. Arioso Othello “With you I say goodbye forever, remembering,” accompanied by bellicose fanfares, close to the heroic march; this is a brief musical portrait of a brave military leader. The story of Iago about Cassio “That was at night” serves as a contrast to him; his insinuating, bewitching melody, swaying picture of accompaniment resemble a lullaby. The duet of Othello and Iago (vow of revenge) by the nature of the music echoes Oryello’s arioso.

The third act is based on a sharp opposition to the solemnity of the mass scenes in which the people salute Othello and his deep spiritual confusion. The duet of Othello and Desdemona opens with a gentle melody “Hello, my dear husband”. Gradually, Othello’s phrases become more and more anxious and worried; at the end of the duet the initial lyrical melody sounds ironically and ends with an angry exclamation. The torn, gloomy, seemingly frozen phrases of Othello’s monologue “God, you could give me a shame” express depression and numbness: the melodious melody of the second part of the monologue is permeated with restrained sorrow. A remarkable septet with the choir is the peak of the drama: the leading role belongs to Desdemona, her heartfelt melodies are full of sad forebodings.

In the fourth act, the image of Desdemona takes precedence. A mournful orchestral introduction with a soloing English horn creates a tragic atmosphere of doom, predicting a close ending. This mood is strengthened in a simple, folk-like song of Desdemona with repeated dreary exclamations “Willow! Willow! Willow!”. A wide range of feelings is distinguished by a short orchestral intermezzo (Othello’s appearance), completed with a passionate melody of love. Dialogue between Othello and Desdemona, built on brief, nervous cues, is accompanied by an unsettling pulsation of the orchestra. The last characteristic of Othello is a small monologue “I’m not afraid, even if armed”; short phrases convey a feverish shift of thoughts. At the end of the opera, emphasizing the drama of the denouement, the melody of love again passes through the orchestra.

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Summary of Giuseppe Verdi. Othello