Review: ‘Otello’ shown in Grass Valley Saturday |

Review: ‘Otello’ shown in Grass Valley Saturday

This Saturday at Grass Valley’s Del Oro Theatre, Sierra Theaters presents Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello” as the latest offering of The Met Opera Live in HD.

“Otello (1887),” the prolific composer’s penultimate opera, offers ravishing music, making it a strong candidate for the finest of the master’s works.

Otello also gives testimony to Verdi’s life-long adoration for the plays of William Shakespeare. Verdi had penned Macbeth in 1847, and worked on and off on a planned—and ultimately abandoned—adaptation of King Lear for decades. Retiring from the stage in 1871 after the triumph that was Aida, an embittered and depressed Verdi resisted numerous attempts to lure him back into the Italian operatic milieu.

His publisher Giulio Ricordi, perhaps lamenting the loss of the huge profits Verdi’s scores generated, launched various unsuccessful schemes toward this end.

The subject of Shalespeare’s Othello, with the possibility of poet/composer Arrigo Boito as librettist, was first put to Verdi in 1879. For five years the push and pull between publisher, poet, and composer continued, with Verdi non-committal, Boito offering drafts, and Ricordi repeatedly sending Verdi cakes with the image of the title character topping each one in chocolate!

Tthe basic story is that Otello, a black man, a war hero, married to the innocent (white) Desdemona, returns triumphant from a battle against the Turks.

Otello’s tragic flaw is his jealous nature, which is exploited by the villainous false friend Iago, seemingly for Iago’s own enjoyment.

As things go in opera — and Shakespeare — bad things do happen to good people, but the singing, and the orchestral score make this an exceptional experience.

Verdi and Boito were so buoyed by the tremendous success of Otello that they came together for the composer’s final work, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the opera Falstaff, perhaps the finest of all comic operas.

John Deaderick is a local theatre instructor, director, actor, and the author of Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis, available at

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