Sunday, July 7, 2013

Otello: a lesson to those who carry handkerchiefs

Preparations for Otello in the Doge's Palace courtyard

When a good friend mentioned that Teatro La Fenice’s 2012/2013 opera schedule included three performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello in the cortile of Venice's Doge's Palace I decided, no matter what, I was going to attend. Fast forward more than a year; that will happen this week.

Otello is based on the play The Tragedy of Othello written in the 1600s by William Shakespeare, and more than two hundred years later adapted to a libretto by Arrigo Boito and scored by Giuseppe Verdi. First performed at Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1887 it was last viewed in the cortile of Palazzo Ducale forty-seven years ago with Mario Del Monaco in the lead role.  Also referred to as the Moor of Venice—this sublime tragedy is said to have been taken from a true story—or at least taken from a few true stories—based on people who lived and ruled in Venice. In brief: Desdemona, a noble woman, is inaccurately accused by Iago, a deliciously devious conniver, of betraying her husband, Otello, a Venetian military general. The opera includes all the necessary ingredients: wealth, power and war, love, lies, jealousy, revenge, betrayal, manipulation, and of course murder. What makes this story more authentic to Venice and Venetians is an exquisite palace facing Santa Maria della Salute church on the Grand Canal. It is said to have been Desdemona’s and another palace in the Dorsoduro area is said to have been Otello’s. It is still known as the home of Il Moro—the Moor.

Opening night is July 10, 2013; no doubt dignitaries and those with deeper ‘black tie’ pockets will fill the cortile, creating a red carpet feel and most likely bringing positive press and substance for Teatro La Fenice’s future archives. However, based on the interest of about 20 close friends—all either Venetian by birth, marriage or residential adoption—who are as anxious as I am to attend and will join me at one of the following performances—July 14th and July 17th—I expect our evening to be quite the Venetian experience.  I will take a photo or two to share with you here after the event.

About the handkerchief: I won't ruin it for those who don't know the significance of il fazzoletto di Desdemona. You might want to pick up the libretto or see the opera. Let's just say that all, men and women, might want to hang on tight to their intimate belongings…Desdemona paid the ultimate price for letting hers drop to the floor.

Interested in a magical night with Otello at Palazzo Ducale? Tickets are still available!  or follow Teatro La Fenice here:


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