At the Zürich Opera House, a new production of Rossini’s Otello puts Cecilia Bartoli’s Desdemona and John Osborn’s titular turn in the spotlight! The Otello that Gioachino Rossini presented at Naples’s Teatro del Fondo in 1816 is (very) liberally adapted from the celebrated Shakespearean tragedy. The libretto by Franceso Berio actually draws more inspiration from another play that premiered in Naples in 1813: Baron Carlo Cosenza’s Otello. In this drama, the figure of Iago takes a backseat to the enmity between the Moor, already married in secret, and Rodrigo, whose love for Desdemona remains unrequited. The motif of the handkerchief is replaced by a love letter whose intended recipient, Othello, believes it destined for another.
Despite the grumblings of a few critics who would’ve preferred a version that hewed more closely to the Bard’s, Rossini’s operatic adaptation remained popular in opera houses worldwide… until Verdi’s rewrite came along in 1887. Rossini’s Otello is very rarely staged today: after all, it requires three truly exceptional tenors for the roles happily conferred here upon John Osborn, Javier Camarena, and Edgardo Rocha. The new Zürich production, staged by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, sees the great mezzo Cecilia Bartoli step unforgettably into the shoes of Desdemona, while Muhai Tang leads the impeccable Orchestra La Scintilla.
Cecilia Bartoli appears courtesy of Decca.