Gioachino Rossini's Otello, which the composer presented at the Teatro del Fondo in Naples in 1816, is only loosely based on the famous Shakespearean tragedy. Francesco Berio's libretto is primarily indebted to a drama that had been premièred in Naples in 1813: Otello by Baron Carlo Cosenza.
The figure of Jago clearly recedes behind the open enmity between the already secretly married Moor and Rodrigo, whose love for Desdemona is not requited; the handkerchief is replaced by a love note, which the real recipient, Otello, believes to be addressed to a rival; and Desdemona's father, Elmiro, is a political opponent of the Moor.
Yet despite the predictable criticism due to these changes, this work brought Rossini lasting success in all the great theatres until the première performance of Verdi's eponymous opera in 1887. Only rarely does Rossini's Otello make it onto the operatic stage today. After all, the cast alone demands three exceptional tenors – an attribute that applies to John Osborn, Javier Camarena and Edgardo Rocha, who can be heard in the new Zurich production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, in equal measure. Cecilia Bartoli will be giving a further, eagerly awaited Rossini role début as Desdemona, and Muhai Tang will be conducting the piece.
Cecilia Bartoli appears courtesy of Decca.
Antoni Ros-Marbà, Willy Decker – Giorgio Giuseppini (Lodovico), José Cura (Otello), Vittorio Grigolo (Cassio) – Gran Teatre del Liceu
Philippe Jordan, Robert Wilson – Stéphane Degout (Pelléas), Elena Tsallagova (Mélisande), Anne Sofie von Otter (Geneviève), Vincent le Texier (Golaud)