Light and dark, good and evil: Keith Warner’s production focuses on the violent conflicts at the core of Otello’s story. Boris Kudlicka’s semi-abstract sets and Kaspar Glarner’s costumes mirror the contrasting innocence of Desdemona and malevolence of Iago. Warner sensitively examines the relationships between Moors, Turks and Westerners in Shakespeare’s time to highlight Otello feeling an outsider in his society, which contributes to his loss of confidence and gradual mental collapse.
Otello was Verdi’s penultimate opera. Although he had claimed to have retired after Aida in 1871, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to set a text by his favourite poet, Shakespeare. His publisher, Giulio Ricordi, suggested he use the writer and composer Arrigo Boito as his librettist. Verdi was delighted by Boito’s subtle and sensitive text, which drew from him some wonderful and varied music. Highlights include Otello and Desdemona’s beautiful Act I love duet, Iago’s nihilistic Act II ‘Credo’, the grandeur of the final scenes of Act III and the terrible intimacy of Act IV from Desdemona’s forebodings to Otello’s crime of passion. Otello had a triumphant premiere in 1887 at La Scala, Milan, and Verdi and Boito went on to collaborate on Verdi’s final operatic masterpiece, Falstaff.