Giuseppe Verdi

"Nabucco" — 1842
"Ernani" — 1844

"Macbeth" — 1847
"Rigoletto" — 1851
"Il Trovatore" - 1853
"La Traviata" — 1853

"Les vepres siciliennes" - 1855
"Un ballo in maschera" - 1859
"La forza del destino" - 1862
"Don Carlos" -  1867

"Aida" - 1871
Messa da Requiem -  1874
"Otello" - 1887
"Falstaff" - 1893
Giuseppe Verdi

Poster for a 1908 production in Cleveland
"Aida" - 1871
Aida (Italian: [aˈiːda]), sometimes spelled Aïda, is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a scenario often attributed to French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, although Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz has argued that the scenario was actually written by Temistocle Solera. Aida was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24 December 1871, conducted by Giovanni Bottesini.

Elements of the opera's genesis and sources

Isma'il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Verdi to write an opera for performance to celebrate the opening of the Khedivial Opera House, paying him 150,000 francs, but the premiere was delayed because of the Siege of Paris (1870-1871), during the Franco-Prussian War, when the scenery and costumes were stuck in the French capital, and Verdi's Rigoletto was performed instead. Aida eventually premiered in Cairo in late 1871. Contrary to popular belief, the opera was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, for which Verdi had been invited to write an inaugural hymn, but had declined. Metastasio's libretto Nitteti (1756) was a major source of the plot.

2007 production of Aida at the Arena di Verona

Performance history
Cairo premiere and initial success in Italy

Verdi originally chose to write a brief orchestral prelude instead of a full overture for the opera. He then composed an overture of the "potpourri" variety to replace the original prelude. However, in the end he decided not to have the overture performed because of its—his own words—"pretentious insipidity". This overture, never used today, was given a rare broadcast performance by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra on 30 March 1940, but was never commercially issued.

Aida met with great acclaim when it finally opened in Cairo on 24 December 1871. The costumes and accessories for the premiere were designed by Auguste Mariette, who also oversaw the design and construction of the sets, which were made in Paris by the Opéra's scene painters Auguste Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Acts 1 and 4) and Edouard Despléchin and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Acts 2 and 3), and shipped to Cairo. Although Verdi did not attend the premiere in Cairo, he was most dissatisfied with the fact that the audience consisted of invited dignitaries, politicians and critics, but no members of the general public. He therefore considered the Italian (and European) premiere, held at La Scala, Milan on 8 February 1872, and a performance in which he was heavily involved at every stage, to be its real premiere.

Verdi had also written the role of Aida for the voice of Teresa Stolz, who sang it for the first time at the Milan premiere. Verdi had asked her fiancé, Angelo Mariani, to conduct the Cairo premiere, but he declined, so Giovanni Bottesini filled the gap. The Milan Amneris, Maria Waldmann, was his favourite in the role and she repeated it a number of times at his request.

Aida was received with great enthusiasm at its Milan premiere. The opera was soon mounted at major opera houses throughout Italy, including the Teatro Regio di Parma (20 April 1872), the Teatro di San Carlo (30 March 1873), La Fenice (11 June 1873), the Teatro Regio di Torino (26 December 1874), the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (30 September 1877, with Giuseppina Pasqua as Amneris and Franco Novara as the King), and the Teatro Costanzi (8 October 1881, with Theresia Singer as Aida and Giulia Novelli as Amneris) among others.

Verdi conducting Aida in Paris


Other 19th-century performances

Details of important national and other premieres of Aida follow:

Argentina: 4 October 1873, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (most likely the original Teatro Colón prior to the present one or Teatro Opera)
United States: 26 November 1873, Academy of Music in New York City, with Ostava Torriani in the title role, Annie Louise Cary as Amneris, Italo Campanini as Radamès, Victor Maurel as Amonasro, and Evasio Scolara as the King
Germany: 20 April 1874, Berlin State Opera, with Mathilde Mallinger as Aida, Albert Niemann as Radamès, and Franz Betz as Amonasro
Spain: 12 December 1874, Teatro Real
Austria: 29 April 1874, Vienna State Opera, with Amalie Materna as Amneris
Hungary: 10 April 1875, Hungarian State Opera House, Budapest
Poland: 23 November 1875, Great Theatre and Polish National Opera, Warsaw. With Polish translation Aida was performed for the first time 9 June 1877.
France: 22 April 1876, Théâtre-Lyrique Italien, Salle Ventadour, Paris, with almost the same cast as the Milan premiere,[9] but with Édouard de Reszke making his debut as the King.
Russia: 1 December 1875, Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Petersburg
Bohemia: 11 December 1875, New Czech Theatre, Prague
United Kingdom: 22 June 1876, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Adelina Patti as Aida, Ernesto Nicolini as Radamès, and Francesco Graziani as Amonasro
Monaco: 13 May 1877, National Theatre, Monte Carlo
Australia: 6 September 1877, Royal Theatre, Melbourne
Munich: 1877, Bavarian State Opera, with Josephine Schefsky as Amneris]
Stockholm: 16 February 1880, Royal Swedish Opera in Swedish, with Selma Ek in the title role
Palais Garnier, Paris: 22 March 1880, sung in French, with Gabrielle Krauss as Aida, Rosine Bloch as Amnéris, Henri Sellier as Radamès, Victor Maurel as Amonasro, Georges-François Menu as the King, and Auguste Boudouresque as Ramphis.
Metropolitan Opera, New York: 12 November 1886, conducted by Anton Seidl, with Therese Herbert-Förster (the wife of Victor Herbert) in the title role, Carl Zobel as Radamès, Marianne Brandt as Amneris, Adolf Robinson as Amonasro, Emil Fischer as Ramfis, and Georg Sieglitz as the King.
Rio de Janeiro: 30 June 1886, Theatro Lyrico Fluminense. During rehearsals at the Theatro Lyrico there was an ongoing quarrel between the performers of the Italian touring opera company and the local inept conductor, with the result that substitute conductors were rejected by the audience. Arturo Toscanini, at the time a 19-year-old cellist who was assistant chorus master, was persuaded to take up the baton for the performance. Toscanini conducted the entire opera from memory, with great success. This would be the start of a promising career.


Cover of an Aida libretto, Milan 1890

20th century and beyond

In New York in 1949, a complete concert version of the opera was given, the first to be televised (on the NBC television network), conducted by Toscanini with Herva Nelli as Aida and Richard Tucker as Radamès. Due to the length of the opera, it was divided into two telecasts, preserved on kinescopes, and later released on home video by RCA and Testament. The audio portion of the broadcast, including some remakes in June 1954, was released on LP and CD by RCA Victor.

Aida continues to be a staple of the standard operatic repertoire and appears as number 12 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide between 2008 and 2013, with 272 performances.

As of 2007, the Metropolitan Opera alone has given more than 1,100 performances of the opera, making it the second most frequently performed work by the company behind La bohème.

Set design for Act 1 scene 2 of the Cairo premiere by Philippe Chaperon

Antecedent: The Egyptians have captured and enslaved Aida, an Ethiopian princess. An Egyptian military commander, Radamès, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris is in love with Radamès, although he does not return her feelings.

Act 1
Scene 1: A hall in the King's palace; through the rear gate the pyramids and temples of Memphis are visible

Ramfis, the high priest of Egypt, tells Radamès, the young warrior, that war with the Ethiopians seems inevitable, and Radamès hopes that he will be chosen as the Egyptian commander (Ramfis, Radamès : Sì, corre voce l'Etiope ardisca / "Yes, it is rumored that Ethiopia dares once again to threaten our power").

Radamès dreams both of gaining victory on the battle field and of Aida, the Ethiopian slave, with whom he is secretly in love (Radamès: Se quel guerrier io fossi! ... Celeste Aida / "Heavenly Aida"). Aida, who is also secretly in love with Radamès, is the captured daughter of the Ethiopian King Amonasro, but her Egyptian captors are unaware of her true identity. Her father has invaded Egypt to deliver her from servitude.

Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian King, enters the hall. She too loves Radamès, but fears that his heart belongs to someone else (Radamès, Amneris: Quale insolita gioia nel tuo sguardo / "In your looks I trace a joy unwanted").

Aida appears and, when Radamès sees her, Amneris notices that he looks disturbed. She suspects that Aida could be her rival, but is able to hide her jealousy and approach Aida (Amneris, Aida, Radamès: Vieni, o diletta, appressati / "Come, O delight, come closer").

The King enters, along with the High Priest, Ramfis, and the whole palace court. A messenger announces that the Ethiopians, led by King Amonasro, are marching towards Thebes. The King declares war and proclaims that Radamès is the man chosen by the goddess Isis to be the leader of the army (The King, Messenger, Radamès, Aida, Amneris, chorus: Alta cagion v'aduna / "Oh fate o'er Egypt looming"). Upon receiving this mandate from the King, Radamès proceeds to the temple of Vulcan to take up the sacred arms (The King, Radamès, Aida, Amneris, chorus: Su! del Nilo al sacro lido / "On! Of Nilus' sacred river, guard the shores").

Alone in the hall, Aida feels torn between her love for her father, her country, and Radamès (Aida: Ritorna vincitor / "Return a conqueror").

Scene 2: Inside the Temple of Vulcan

Solemn ceremonies and dances by the priestesses take place (High Priestess, chorus, Radamès: Possente Ftha ... Tu che dal nulla / "O mighty Ptah"). This is followed by the installation of Radamès to the office of commander-in-chief (High Priestess, chorus, Radamès: Immenso Ftha .. Mortal, diletto ai Numi / "O mighty one, guard and protect!"). All present in the temple pray for the victory of Egypt and protection for their warriors (Nume, custode e vindice/ "Hear us, O guardian deity").

Teresa Stolz as Aida, Parma 1872


Act 2
Scene 1: The chamber of Amneris

Dances and music to celebrate Radamès' victory take place (Chorus, Amneris: Chi mai fra gli inni e i plausi / "Our songs his glory praising"'). However, Amneris is still in doubt about Radamès' love and wonders whether Aida is in love with him. She tries to forget her doubt, entertaining her worried heart with the dance of Moorish slaves (Chorus, Amneris: Vieni: sul crin ti piovano / "Come bind your flowing tresses").

When Aida enters the chamber, Amneris asks everyone to leave. By falsely telling Aida that Radamès has died in the battle, she tricks her into professing her love for him. In grief, and shocked by the news, Aida confesses that her heart belongs to Radamès eternally (Amneris, Aida: Fu la sorte dell'armi a' tuoi funesta / "The battle's outcome was cruel for your people ...").

This confession fires Amneris with rage, and she plans on taking revenge on Aida. Ignoring Aida's pleadings (Amneris, Aida, chorus: Su! del Nilo al sacro lido / "Up! at the sacred shores of the Nile"), Amneris leaves her alone in the chamber.

Scene 2: The grand gate of the city of Thebes

Act 2 scene 2 set design for the Cairo premiere by Edouard Despléchin

Radamès returns victorious and the troops march into the city (Chorus, Ramfis: Gloria all'Egitto, ad Iside / "Glory to Egypt, to Isis!"). The Egyptian king decrees that on this day the triumphant Radamès may have anything he wishes. The Ethiopian captives are rounded up, and Amonasro appears among them. Aida immediately rushes to her father, but their true identities are still unknown to the Egyptians, save for the fact that they are father and daughter. Amonasro declares that the Ethiopian king (he himself) has been slain in battle. Aida, Amonasro, and the captured Ethiopians plead with the Egyptian King for mercy, but the Egyptians call for their death (Aida, Amneris, Radamès, The King, Amonasro, chorus: Che veggo! .. Egli? .. Mio padre! .. Anch'io pugnai / "What do I see?.. Is it he? My father?").

Claiming the reward promised by the King, Radamès pleads with him to spare the lives of the prisoners and to set them free. Gratefully, the King of Egypt declares Radamès to be his successor and to be his daughter's betrothed (Aida, Amneris, Radamès, The King, Amonasro, chorus: O Re: pei sacri Numi! .. Gloria all'Egitto / "O King, by the sacred gods ..."). Aida and Amonasro remain as hostages to ensure that the Ethiopians do not avenge their defeat.

The “triumphal scene” from Opera Pacific's production of Aida in 2006, starring Angela Brown as Aida, Carl Tanner as Radamès, Milena Kitić as Amneris and Donnie Ray Albert as Amonasro

Act 3
On the banks of the Nile, near the Temple of Isis

Prayers are said (Chorus, Ramfis, Amneris: O tu che sei d'Osiride / "O thou who to Osiris art ...") on the eve of Amneris and Radamès' wedding in the Temple of Isis. Outside, Aida waits to meet with Radamès as they had planned (Aida: Qui Radamès verra .. O patria mia / "Oh, my dear country!").

Amonasro appears and makes Aida agree to find out the location of the Egyptian army from Radamès (Aida, Amonasro: Ciel, mio padre! .. Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate / "Once again shalt thou gaze."). When he arrives, Amonasro hides behind a rock and listens to their conversation.

Radamès affirms that he will marry Aida (Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida .. Nel fiero anelito; Fuggiam gli ardori inospiti... Là, tra foreste vergini / "I see you again, my sweet Aida!"), and Aida convinces him to flee to the desert with her.

In order to make their escape easier, Radamès proposes that they use a safe route without any fear of discovery and reveals the location where his army has chosen to attack. Upon hearing this, Amonasro comes out of hiding and reveals his identity. Radamès feels dishonored. At the same time, Amneris and Ramfis leave the temple and, seeing Radamès with their enemy, call the guards. Amonasro and Aida try to convince Radamès to escape with them, but he refuses and surrenders to the imperial guards.

The Israeli Opera performing Aida at the foot of Masada, 11 June 2011

Act 4

Scene 1: A hall in the Temple of Justice. To one side is the door leading to Radamès' prison cell

Amneris desires to save Radamès (L'aborrita rivale a me sfuggia / "My hated rival has escaped me"). She calls for the guard to bring him to her.

She asks Radamès to deny the accusations, but Radamès refuses. Certain that, as punishment, he will be condemned to death, Amneris implores him to defend himself, but Radamès firmly refuses. He is relieved to know Aida is still alive and hopes she has reached her own country (Amneris, Radamès: Già i Sacerdoti adunansi / "Already the priests are assembling"). His decision hurts Amneris.

Radamès' trial takes place offstage; he does not reply to Ramfis' accusations and is condemned to death, while Amneris, who remains onstage, pleads with the priests to show him mercy. As he is sentenced to be buried alive, Amneris curses the priests while Radamès is taken away (Judgment scene, Amneris, Ramfis, and chorus: Ahimè! .. morir mi sento / "Alas ... I feel death").

Scene 2: The lower portion of the stage shows the vault in the Temple of Vulcan; the upper portion represents the temple itself

Radamès has been taken into the lower floor of the temple and sealed up in a dark vault, where he thinks that he is alone. As he hopes that Aida is in a safer place, he hears a sigh and then sees Aida. She has hidden herself in the vault in order to die with Radamès (Radamès and Aida: La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse. / "The fatal stone now closes over me"). They accept their terrible fate (Radamès: Morir! Si pura e bella / "To die! So pure and lovely!") and bid farewell to Earth and its sorrows. Above the vault in the temple of Vulcan, Amneris weeps and prays to the goddess Isis. In the vault below, Aida dies in Radamès' arms. (Chorus, Aida, Radamès, Amneris: Immenso Ftha / "Almighty Ptah.")

The opera has been adapted for motion pictures on several occasions, most notably in a 1953 production which starred Lois Maxwell and Sophia Loren, and a 1987 Swedish production. In both cases, the lead actors lip-synched to recordings by actual opera singers. The opera's story, but not its music, was used as the basis for a 1998 musical of the same name written by Elton John and Tim Rice.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Verdi - Aida
Vocals: M. Freni, J. Carreras, A. Baltsa, P. Cappuccilli, R. Raimondi
Orchestra: Wiener Philarmoniker conducted by H. von Karajan

0:00 Act I
41:52 Act II
1:24:46 Act III
1:59:19 Act IV

Verdi: Aïda - San Francisco Opera (starring Luciano Pavarotti)
A magnificent spectacle of stars, scenery and choreography, this version of Verdi's Aïda is remastered from Sam Wanamaker's landmark production. It features monumental performances by Luciano Pavarotti as Radames and Margaret Price in the title role. The tensions which arise from Radames' love for Aida, a slave who is the daughter of the Ethiopian chieftain, Amonasro, and the jealousy this provokes in the daughter in Amneris, daughter of the Egyptian king, are portrayed in some of Verdi's most famous music.
Giuseppe Verdi, Aida
Giuseppe Verdi, Aida
Roma, 1993

Conductor: Daniel Oren
Director: Franco Zeffirelli

Nina Rautio (Aida)
Gegam Grigorian (Radames)
Ghena Dimitrova (Amneris)
Carlo Colombara (Ramfis)
Franz Grundheber (Amonasro)

Egyptian Triumphal march Verdi Aida Opera
Verdi - Aida - Triumphal March - Lund International Choral Festival 2010
476 singers and 60 musicians of Lunds Stadsorkester conducted by Roger Andersson

On October 17th 2012 the next Lund Choral Festival will start:
Here the same chior performs Va, pensiro - Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves - from Nabucco:

Giuseppe Verdi - Aida - Triumph March - Triumphal March - Grand March - Chior - Chorus
Lund International Choral Festival 2010

Gala Concert

Verdi - Aida - Triumph Marc

Aida - Giuseppe Verdi - Arena di Verona 2012
Direttore del Coro Armando Tasso - Direttore del Corpo di ballo Maria Grazia Garofoli
Direttore allestimenti scenici Giuseppe De Filippi Venezia

Orchestra Coro Corpo di ballo e tecnici dell'Arena di Verona

G. Verdi - Aida Aria: Celeste Aida / Heavenly Aida - Jose Cura
Giuseppe Verdi: "AIDA" (Act1 scene 1 Aria "Celeste Aida / Heavenly Aida").
Radames: JOSE CURA

Direction-sets-costumes: PIER LUIGI PIZZI.
Music direction: DONATO RENZETTI

Placido Domingo sings "Celeste Aida"
Houston Grand Opera. October 1, 1987
Enrico Caruso - Celeste Aida 1911
Verdi: Aida - Se quel guerrier io fossi: Celeste Aida.
Recorded 27. December 1911.
Leontyne Price sings "Ritorna Vincitor" from Verdi's Aida
Act I aria, recorded 1966
Maria Callas Aida: Ritorna Vincitor - 1951
Maria Callas
"Ritorna vincitor"

1951 - Mexico City
Palacio de las bellas artes

Maria Callas "O patria mia" Aida Mexico 1951
Teatro de Ballas Artes de Mexico. July 3, 1951
Tatiana Bogacheva-Mazurenko, Aida's aria from 3act (Verdi) 2010
Giuseppe Verdi - Aida - Act. 4, Scene 1
Leontyne Price, soprano: Aida. Plàcido Domingo, tenor: Radamès. Grace Bumbry, mezzo-soprano: Amneris. Sherrill Milnes, baritone: Amonasro. Ruggero Raimondi, bass: Ramfis. Hans Sotin, bass: Il Re d'Egitto. Joyce Mathis, soprano: Sacerdotessa. Bruce Brewer, tenor: Un Messaggero. John Alldis Choir, London Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf.
Giuseppe Verdi - Aida - Act. 4, Scene 2
Leontyne Price, soprano: Aida. Plàcido Domingo, tenor: Radamès. Grace Bumbry, mezzo-soprano: Amneris. Sherrill Milnes, baritone: Amonasro. Ruggero Raimondi, bass: Ramfis. Hans Sotin, bass: Il Re d'Egitto. Joyce Mathis, soprano: Sacerdotessa. Bruce Brewer, tenor: Un Messaggero. John Alldis Choir, London Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf.
Messa da Requiem - 1874
The Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass (Requiem) for four soloists, double choir and orchestra by Giuseppe Verdi. It was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist who was admired by Verdi. The first performance, at the San Marco church in Milan on 22 May 1874, marked the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. The work was at one time called the Manzoni Requiem. Although originally composed for liturgical purposes, in modern days it is rarely performed in liturgy, but rather in concert form of around 85–90 minutes in length. Musicologist David Rosen calls it 'probably the most frequently performed major choral work composed since the compilation of Mozart's Requiem.'

Alessandro Manzoni, in whose honour Verdi wrote the Requiem

Composition history

After Gioachino Rossini's death in 1868, Verdi suggested that a number of Italian composers collaborate on a Requiem in Rossini's honor. He began the effort by submitting the concluding movement, the Libera me. During the next year a Messa per Rossini was compiled by Verdi and twelve other famous Italian composers of the time. The premiere was scheduled for 13 November 1869, the first anniversary of Rossini's death.

However, on 4 November, nine days before the premiere, the organising committee abandoned it. Verdi blamed this on the scheduled conductor, Angelo Mariani. He pointed to Mariani's lack of enthusiasm for the project, even though he had been part of the organising committee from the start, and it marked the beginning of the end of their friendship. The piece fell into oblivion until 1988, when Helmuth Rilling premiered the complete Messa per Rossini in Stuttgart, Germany.

In the meantime, Verdi kept toying with his Libera me, frustrated that the combined commemoration of Rossini's life would not be performed in his lifetime.

On 22 May 1873, the Italian writer and humanist Alessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi had admired all his adult life and met in 1868, died. Upon hearing of his death, Verdi resolved to complete a Requiem—this time entirely of his own writing—for Manzoni. Verdi traveled to Paris in June, where he commenced work on the Requiem, giving it the form we know today. It included a revised version of the Libera me originally composed for Rossini.

Requiem poster for La Scala premiere, 1874

Performance history
19th century

The Requiem was first performed in the church of San Marco in Milan on 22 May 1874, the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. Verdi himself conducted, and the four soloists were Teresa Stolz (soprano), Maria Waldmann (mezzo-soprano), Giuseppe Capponi (tenor) and Ormondo Maini (bass).

As Aida, Amneris and Ramfis respectively, Stolz, Waldmann, and Maini had all sung in the European premiere of Aida in 1872, and Capponi was also intended to sing the role of Radames at that premiere but was replaced due to illness. Teresa Stolz went on to a brilliant career, Waldmann retired very young in 1875, but the male singers appear to have faded into obscurity. Also, Teresa Stolz was engaged to Angelo Mariani in 1869, but she later left him.

The Requiem was repeated at La Scala three days later on 25 May with the same soloists and Verdi again conducting. It won immediate contemporary success, although not everywhere. It received seven performances at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, but the new Royal Albert Hall in London could not be filled for such a Catholic occasion. In Venice, impressive Byzantine ecclesiastical decor was designed for the occasion of the performance.

It later disappeared from the standard choral repertoire, but made a reappearance in the 1930s and is now regularly performed and a staple of many choral societies.

The playwright and music critic George Bernard Shaw was a great admirer of the work from its first London performance, and had the Libera me played at his funeral.

20th century and beyond
The Requiem was performed 16 times between 1943 and 1944 by prisoners in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt (also known as Terezín) under the direction of Rafael Schächter. The performances were extraordinary on several counts: first, they had only a single vocal score with piano accompaniment, so every part had to be learned from memory; second, they practised in a dark, cold, damp basement with only a broken piano after long days of forced labour; and third, as the performances took place over an extended period, many of the singers were removed by the Nazis and had to be replaced. The final performance particularly provided a basis for dignified self-expression as well as attempting to symbolically communicate the circumstances at the camp to a visiting International Red Cross delegation in 1944.

In 2006, Murry Sidlin performed the Requiem in the same hall in which the Red Cross performance had taken place and rehearsed the choir in the same basement where the original inmates learnt and practised their parts. It was part of the Prague Spring Festival and children of the survivors sang in the choir with their parents sitting in the audience.

The Requiem has been staged in a variety of ways several times in recent years. Achim Freyer created a production for the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2006 that was revived in 2007, 2011 and 2013. In Freyer's staging, the four sung roles, "Der Weiße Engel" (The White Angel), "Der Tod-ist-die-Frau" (Death is the Woman), "Einsam" (Solitude), and "Der Beladene" (The Load Bearer) are complemented by choreographed allegorical characters.

In 2011, Oper Köln premiered a full staging by Clemens Bechtel where the four main characters were shown in different life and death situations: the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a Turkish writer in prison, a young woman with bulimia, and an aid worker in Africa.

The second performance of the Requiem, at La Scala on 25 May 1874, with Verdi conducting. The soloists depicted are (left to right) Ormondo Maini, Giuseppe Capponi, Maria Waldmann, and Teresa Stolz

Versions and arrangements
For a Paris performance, Verdi revised the Liber scriptus to allow Maria Waldmann a further solo for future performances.

Versions accompanied by four pianos or brass band were also performed.

Franz Liszt transcribed the Agnus Dei for solo piano (S. 437). It has been recorded by Leslie Howard.

1. Introit and Kyrie (chorus, soloists)
2. Dies irae
Dies irae (chorus)
Tuba mirum (chorus)
Mors stupebit (bass)
Liber scriptus (mezzo-soprano, chorus)
Quid sum miser (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor)
Rex tremendae (soloists, chorus)
Recordare (soprano, mezzo-soprano)
Ingemisco (tenor)
Confutatis (bass, chorus)
Lacrymosa (soloists, chorus)

3. Offertory
Domine Jesu Christe (soloists)
Hostias (soloists)

4. Sanctus (double chorus)
5. Agnus Dei (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)
6. Lux aeterna (mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass)
7. Libera me (soprano, chorus)
Libera me
Dies irae
Requiem aeternam
Libera me

First edition title page, Ricordi, 1874

Music of the Requiem
Throughout the work, Verdi uses vigorous rhythms, sublime melodies, and dramatic contrasts—much as he did in his operas—to express the powerful emotions engendered by the text. The terrifying (and instantly recognizable) Dies irae that introduces the traditional sequence of the Latin funeral rite is repeated throughout. Trumpets surround the stage to produce a call to judgement in the Tuba mirum, and the almost oppressive atmosphere of the Rex tremendae creates a sense of unworthiness before the King of Tremendous Majesty. Yet the well-known tenor solo Ingemisco radiates hope for the sinner who asks for the Lord's mercy.

The Sanctus (a complicated eight-part fugue scored for double chorus) begins with a brassy fanfare to announce him "who comes in the name of the Lord". Finally the Libera me, the oldest music by Verdi in the Requiem, interrupts. Here the soprano cries out, begging, "Deliver me, Lord, from eternal death ... when you will come to judge the world by fire."

At the time the Requiem was composed, female singers were not permitted to perform in Catholic Church rituals (such as a requiem mass). However, from the beginning Verdi intended to use female singers in the work. In his open letter proposing the Requiem project (when it was still conceived as a multi-author Requiem for Rossini), Verdi wrote: If I were in the good graces of the Holy Father [i.e., the Pope], I would beg him to permit—if only for this one time—that women take part in the performance of this music; but since I am not, it will fall to someone else better suited to obtain this decree." In the event, when Verdi composed the Requiem alone, two of the four soloists were sopranos, and the chorus included female voices. This may have slowed the work's acceptance in Italy.

At the time of its premiere, the Requiem was criticized by some as being too operatic in style for the religious subject matter. According to Gundula Kreuzer, "Most critics did perceive a schism between the religious text (with all its musical implications) and Verdi's setting." Some viewed it negatively as "an opera in ecclesiastical robes," or alternatively, as a religious work, but one in "dubious musical costume." While the majority of critics agreed that the music was "dramatic," some felt that such treatment of the text was appropriate, or at least permissible. As to the music qua music, the critical consensus agreed that the work displayed "fluent invention, beautiful sound effects and charming vocal writing." Critics were divided between praise and condemnation with respect to Verdi's willingness to break standard compositional rules for musical effect, such as his use of consecutive fifths.

The work is scored for the following orchestra:

woodwind: piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 bassoons
brass: 4 horns, 8 trumpets, 3 trombones, Ophicleide
percussion: timpani, bass drum
strings: violins I, II, violas, violoncellos, double basses.
Jump up - the third flute doubles on piccolo
Jump up - an obsolete instrument usually replaced by a tuba or cimbasso in modern performances

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Verdi: Requiem / Karajan · La Scala Orchestra and Chorus of Milan
Great and dramatic presentation of Herbert von Karajan (in my personal opinion, the best conductor of all times) conducting La Scala Orchestra and Chorus of Milano with Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto and Nikolai Ghiaurov at an amazing version of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem.

Genial y dramática presentación de Herbert von Karajan conduciendo a la Orquesta y Coro La Scala de Milán, junto a Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto y Nikolai Ghiaurov en una sorprendente versión del Requiém de Giuseppe Verdi.


(C) ALL their respective owners. No personal work here.

0:00:32 Requiem
0:08:43 Dies Irae
0:10:55 Tuba Mirum
0:12:58 Mors Stupebit
0:14:19 Liber Scriptus
0:19:23 Quid Sum Miser
0:23:13 Rex Tremendae
0:26:44 Recordare
0:31:05 Ingemisco
0:34:45 Confutatis
0:40:24 Lacrymosa
0:46:05 Offertorio
0:56:53 Sanctus
0:59:51 Agnus Dei
1:04:32 Lux Aeterna
1:10:45 Libera Me

VERDI Requiem. Claudio ABBADO. M. Price, Jessye Norman, J.Carreras, R.Raimondi 1982 rec. by Rosmcal.
Festival de Edimburgo 1982, director Claudio Abbado, Orquesta Sinfónica de Londres. Solistas: Margaret Price, Jessye Normn, José Carreras y Ruggero Raimondi
Verdi: Messa di Requiem- Abbado, Scotto, Horne, Pavarotti, Ghiaurov Roma 1970
Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Riccardo Muti (HD 1080p)
Requiem Mass (1874)

i. Introit and Kyrie (chorus, soloists)
ii. Dies irae
Dies irae (chorus)
Tuba mirum (chorus)
Mors stupebit (bass)
Liber scriptus (mezzo-soprano, chorus)
Quid sum miser (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor)
Rex tremendae (soloists, chorus)
Recordare (soprano, mezzo-soprano)
Ingemisco (tenor)
Confutatis (bass, chorus)
Lacrymosa (soloists, chorus)
iii. Offertory
Domine Jesu Christe (soloists)
Hostias (soloists)
iv. Sanctus (double chorus)
v. Agnus Dei (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus)
vi. Lux aeterna (mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass)
vii. Libera me (soprano, chorus)
Libera me
Dies irae
Requiem aeternam
Libera me

Tatiana Serjan, soprano
Daniela Barcellona, mezzo-soprano
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Ildar Abdrazakov, bass

Chicago Symphony Chorus
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Conductor:Riccardo Muti

October 10, 2013

English subtitles

(HD 1080p)

The Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass (Requiem) for four soloists, double choir and orchestra by Giuseppe Verdi. It was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist who Verdi admired. The first performance, at the San Marco church in Milan on 22 May 1874, marked the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. The work was at one time called the Manzoni Requiem. Although originally composed for liturgical purposes, in modern days it is rarely performed in liturgy, but rather in concert form of around 85-90 minutes in length.

"Otello" - 1887
Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.

With the composer's reluctance to write anything new after the success of Aida in 1871 and his retreat into retirement, it took his Milan publisher Giulio Ricordi the next ten years, first to persuade him to write anything, then to encourage the revision of Verdi's 1857 Simon Boccanegra by introducing Boito as librettist, and finally to begin the arduous process of persuading and cajoling Verdi to see Boito's completed libretto for Otello in July/August 1881.[1] By that time no music had yet been written, and the composer did not guarantee that any would be written.

Composition history
Giulio Ricordi and the plot to convince Verdi to compose again
Verdi's early retirement
After the completion and premiere of his opera Aida in December 1871, Verdi decided that it was time for him to end his successful career as a composer of opera, much as Rossini had done after the completion of the opera William Tell, though he was easily the most popular, and possibly the wealthiest, composer in Italy at the time. However, Verdi's sixties were not good years: as musicologist Julian Budden notes, "he seemed to have entered [those years] in a mood of gloom and depression [..and..] his letters at the time were full of complaints about the Italian theatre, Italian politics and Italian music in general [all] seen by him as sinking beneath a tide of Germanism".

Ricordi's initial attempts
Because of the immense popularity of Verdi’s music in Italy by the 1870s, Verdi's retirement seemed to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, to be a waste of talent and possible profits. Thus a plot of sorts was hatched in order to coax the composer out of retirement to write another opera. Because of the importance of the dramatic aspects of opera to the composer, Verdi was especially selective in his choice of subjects. Consequently, if he were to agree to create another opera after a decade of retirement, the libretto would need to be one that would capture his interest.

During the period when a suitable story was being sought for what became Aida, Ricordi had come across Boito's partly finished libretto of his own opera Nerone, and he even suggested in a letter of February 1870 to Verdi that, with Boito's permission, he set it to music. Verdi ignored it, and so Ricordi tried again in January 1871, enclosing with his letter a copy of Boito's libretto for Boito's friend and collaborator Franco Faccio's Amleto which had been given in 1865 and was revived in February 1871. Nothing came of this approach, although Ricordi persevered in various ways, as seen by the composer's gruff response to the publisher's statement "The whole salvation of the theatre and the art is in your hands" when Verdi wrote in April 1875 that "I cannot take it as but a joke", continuing with "Oh no, never fear, composers for the theatre will never be lacking".

Verdi's refusals continued as the 1870s progressed. Knowing of his interest in the soprano Adelina Patti, Ricordi tried to entice him into writing an opera for her, but Verdi's refusal resulted in another approach via a letter to Giuseppina, who was to present the idea at an opportune time. But she confessed defeat yet again. Clara Maffei also tried, unsuccessfully, in March 1878 to interest Verdi, who replied: "For what reason should I write? What would I succeed in doing?"

Boito, Verdi, and revisions of Simon Boccanegra
While he was attempting to get Verdi involved a new opera, in May 1879 Ricordi also tried to engage the composer in revising Simon Boccanegra. This suggestion, originally expressed ten years before but ignored, was once again shrugged off by Verdi, who sent a note saying that the 1857 score, which had been sent to the composer for review, would remain untouched "just as you sent it to me".

Persisting with further attempts to convince the composer, Ricordi had also broached the idea of a collaboration with Boito for a new opera based on Shakespeare's Othello. Verdi admired the dramatic works of Shakespeare and had, throughout his career, desired to create operas based on his plays, although his one attempt at doing so, Macbeth in 1847, although initially successful, was not well received when revised for performance in Paris in 1865.[8] Because of its relatively straightforward story, the play Othello was selected as a likely target.

Collaborations with Boito in the revision of the 1857 opera Simon Boccanegra helped to convince Verdi of Boito's ability as a librettist. Musicologist Roger Parker speculates that Verdi's final agreement to revise Boccanegra was based on a desire to "test the possibility" of working with Boito before possibly embarking on the larger project.[9] Frank Walker expresses much the same thoughts, noting that "some of the results, such as the magnificent scene in the Council Chamber and the villainous Paolo's Iago-like recitatives, foreshadow the later opera."

Verdi and Boito during the their later years working together
 (Fotografia Ferrario, 1893)

Verdi is introduced to the idea of Otello
Verdi visited Milan on 30 June 1879, where he was present to conduct his Requiem Mass in a benefit performance at La Scala. He received the great acclaim of the public, which included the La Scala orchestra playing outside his hotel. Walker assumes that it was both Ricordi and Faccio who stage managed the effects to give the composer the sense of being welcome and respected in Milan.

Finally, after some plotting, Ricordi, in conjunction with Verdi’s friend, the conductor Franco Faccio, subtly introduced the idea of a new opera to Verdi. During a dinner at Verdi’s Milan residence during the summer of 1879, Ricordi and Faccio guided the conversation towards Shakespeare’s play Othello and to the librettist Arrigo Boito (whom Ricordi claimed to be a great fan of the play also). Ricordi told the story to Giuseppe Adami, a librettist for three of Puccini's operas:

The idea of a new opera arose during a dinner among friends, when I turned the conversation, by chance, on Shakespeare and on Boito. At the mention of Othello I saw Verdi fix his eyes on me, with suspicion, but with interest. He had certainly understood; he had certainly reacted. I believed the time was ripe.
Suggestions were made, despite initial skepticism on the part of the composer, that Boito would be interested in creating a new libretto based upon the play. Within several days, Ricordi approached Verdi with the request that he would like to visit Sant' Agata "with a friend" in September. Verdi's reaction was clearly non-committal: "I wish absolutely to avoid committing myself..[...] The best thing..is for him to send me the finished poem".

Meanwhile, Boito began work on the libretto in spite of illness and, by late October/early November had sent a copy of the work so far. After appealing to Giuseppina, Ricordi was told that the Verdis would be coming to Milan and that he would meet privately with Boito. However, she noted in her letter of 7 November: "Between ourselves, what Boito has so far written of the African seems to please him, and is very well done."

At this point the opera was being referred to as Iago rather than Otello, due to the tradition—"an unwritten law of the theatre"—that any new opera would have a new title rather than that of one still in the repertoire, in this case by Rossini.

From libretto, to composition, to first performance: 1879 to 1887
The process of writing the first drafts of the libretto and the years of their revision, with Verdi all along not promising anything, dragged on. As Walker charts it, the opera was completed:

in three comparatively short bouts of composition: the first, very brief, was at Genoa in March 1884 [five years after the first drafts of the libretto began!]; the second, the principal one, at Genoa from December 1884 to April 1885; the third at Sant' Agata from the middle of September to early October 1885.

By late August 1881, it appears that the text of the finale of act 3, over which there had been some considerable discussion (with ideas exchanged between both men) was sent to Verdi, who responded in a long letter from Milan regarding his feelings about its overall structure, the role of the chorus, and other issues. Throughout 1882 and 1883 very little happened, although during the winter of 1883 Verdi and Boito met in Genoa where the Verdis spent their winters, but it prompted Ricordi for three Christmases in a row to send a cake to Verdi with the figure of the Moor—in chocolate—on the top. In order to keep information about the composition within the group, this gesture may have been the cause for the name given to the project for many years, "chocolate", as in Boito's letter of 1864 noting that "the manufacture of chocolate was going ahead".

Otello and Desdemona by Alexandre-Marie Colin, 1829

March 1884: composition begins
But, early the following year, Verdi began to compose and on 20 March 1884, in a letter from Boito to Ricordi, the librettist announced that Verdi had begun with the "opening of first act and seems to be working with fervor".

There then occurred an event which unsettled both Verdi and Boito, and which nearly caused the project to come to a complete stop. While attending a banquet in Naples following the successful presentation of his opera Mefistofele, Boito gave an interview to a journalist and, in trying to keep information about the proposed Otello as quiet as possible, appears to have been misquoted by another journalist who overheard part of the conversation. The key point was that Boito, himself a composer, appeared to want to compose the music for Otello himself. When Verdi read this in a Milan newspaper, he was horrified and, in a letter to Faccio (rather than directly confronting Boito) stated that he wanted Faccio to directly tell the librettist that "I will give him his manuscript intact, without a shadow of resentment, without rancor of any kind".

When he heard of the newspaper report, Boito was horrified. Writing immediately to Verdi, he states:

The theme and my libretto are yours by right of conquest. You alone can set Othello to music—all the dramatic creations you have given us proclaim the truth.
[He continues by discussing his own preoccupation with Emperor Nero and his love for the period of Ancient Roman history as works on his own opera, Nerone]
[...] no other subject in the world can distract me, not even Shakespeare's Othello, could distract me from my theme.
[He asks the composer, given the above comments, whether he really believes that he would accept his offer. Boito begs Verdi to not to abandon Otello:] It is predestined for you. Create it. You had begun work upon it [so..] take up you pen again and write me soon: 'Dear Boito, do me the favour of altering these verses, etc. etc.....'
Verdi's response, which came right away was quite blunt: in addition to complaining of his age, his years of service, and raising other objections, he states: "The conclusion is that all this has cast a chill over this Otello, and stiffened the hand that had begun to trace out a few bars!", but, in total contrast, Boito appears to have simply decided to carry on. Albeit "somewhat disquieted", he immediately proposes "a sort of evil Credo [which] I did... for my own comfort and personal satisfaction, because I felt the need of doing it". On 3 May, Verdi writes back, calming this down: "Most beautiful this Credo; most powerful and wholly Shakespearian....[...] it would be well to leave this Otello in peace for a bit....[and encouraging Boito to come to Sant'Agata where] "we shall be able to talk it over again, and by then with the necessary calm". Boito did visit Verdi in September for three days.

December 1884: composition begins again

"It seems impossible, but it's true all the same! I'm busy, writing!!....without purpose, without worries, without thinking of what will happen next.....". So Verdi wrote to Boito, with a request for a few more lines for act two, to which the librettist immediately responded: "One can't escape one's destiny, and by a law of intellectual affinity that tragedy of Shakespeare's is predestined for you".

Verdi's second burst of creative energy lasted until mid-April 1885, and was followed by the usual summer break and a lack of any activity. He confesses to Boito in a letter of 10 September of that year, when he invites him to come to Sant'Agata the following Sunday, stating "since I've been here [from the end of April] (I blush to say it) I've done nothing!" It was during this time that the fourth act was pulled together.

From October 1885: composition re-commences, and moves towards completion

Walker speculates that Boito's visit and his conversations with the composer must have had some effect on Verdi because, on 5 October, Verdi made the announcement: "I have finished the fourth act, and I breathe again".

Scoring took another year which, from January 1886 onward, involved the librettist in re-writes and additions at Verdi’s request. It was at this time that it was decided to call the opera Otello rather than Iago (as noted above). Verdi's letter to Boito in January settles the matter: "I would find it hypocritical not to call it Otello. Emanuele Muzio (Verdi's long-time assistant) tells Ricordi in March that the love duet in act 1 was finished and performed.

In May, Verdi "hit upon the precise form of one of the most famous entrances in all opera"—Otello's "Esultate"—in act 1. Boito modified his verses accordingly. Other minor changes and proposed revisions were wrapped up into September so that Verdi could write to Ricordi on 9 September: "Tomorrow I shall send to Casa Ricordi, completely finished, all the first act and all scene vi of the third; and thus with the fourth, already sent, perhaps three-fifths of the Moor are ready".

But on 1 November 1886, in a laconic communication, Verdi was able to proclaim: "DEAR BOITO, It is finished! All honour to us! (and to Him!!). Farewell. G. VERDI".(sic) This left only a few minor tweaks to be done, with Boito providing two more lines in December and Verdi writing to him on the 18th saying "I have just consigned to [Ricordi] the last acts of Otello! Poor Othello!...He won’t come back here any more!!!" The librettist replied: "The Moor will come back no more to knock on the door of the Palazzo Doria [Verdi’s Genoa residence], but you will go to meet the Moor at La Scala. Otello exists. The great dream has become reality".

Francesco Tamagno as Otello in a costume designed by Alfred Edel for the original production

Performance history
The premiere

As the Italian public became aware that the retired Verdi was composing another opera, rumors about it abounded. At the same time, many of the most illustrious conductors, singers and opera-house managers in Europe were vying for an opportunity to play a part in Otello's premiere, despite the fact that Faccio and La Scala, Milan, had already been selected as the conductor and the venue for the first performance. The two male protagonists had been selected, too: Italy's foremost dramatic tenor, Francesco Tamagno, was to sing Otello while the esteemed French singing-actor Victor Maurel would assume the villainous baritone role of Iago. Romilda Pantaleoni, a well-known singing-actress, was assigned Desdemona's soprano part.

Upon the completion of the opera, preparations for the initial performance were conducted in absolute secrecy and Verdi reserved the right to cancel the premiere up to the last minute.

Verdi need not have worried: Otello's debut proved to be a resounding success. The audience's enthusiasm for Verdi was shown by the 20 curtain calls that he took at the end of the opera. Further stagings of Otello soon followed at leading theatres throughout Europe and America.

Productions elsewhere

The opera was first seen in the US at the Academy of Music in New York on 16 April 1888 and in the UK on 5 July 1889 in London. When it was given in Paris in October 1894, "Verdi composed a short ballet (which) forms part of the ceremony of welcome for the Venetian ambassadors in the act 3 finale."

At its first appearance in Vienna, the title role was sung by Hermann Winkelmann, who had created the title role in Wagner's Parsifal at Bayreuth in 1882.

Today, the opera is frequently performed throughout the world, a staple of the standard repertoire. The online performance database, operabase, records that in the 2012/13 season, this opera appears as number 25 of the top 50 given worldwide. This compares to being number 28 of 50 in the 2009/10 season.

The roles, their demands, and the singers who met them

Since three leading roles of the opera (Desdemona, Iago and Otello) are among Verdi's most demanding, both vocally and dramatically, some of the most illustrious singers of the past 130 years have made Otello part of their repertoire. Famous Otellos of the past have included Tamagno, the role's trumpet-voiced creator, as well as Giovanni De Negri, Albert Alvarez, Francesc Viñas, Giuseppe Borgatti, Antonio Paoli, Giovanni Zenatello, Renato Zanelli, Giovanni Martinelli, Aureliano Pertile, Francesco Merli, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Frank Mullings, Leo Slezak, Jose Luccioni, Ramón Vinay, Mario Del Monaco, James McCracken, Jon Vickers and Carlo Cossutta. Pre-Second World War Wagnerian tenors such as Jacques Urlus, Heinrich Knote, Alexander Kirchner, Lauritz Melchior and Franz Völker also undertook the part (usually singing it in German). The Russian heroic tenor Ivan Yershov was a renowned pre-World War I Otello in his native country. His compatriot Arnold Azrikan achieved his greatest recognition as a dramatic tenor in Otello. For this performance he was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1946. Enrico Caruso was studying Otello when he died unexpectedly in 1921, thus thwarting the New York Metropolitan Opera company's plans to stage the opera as a new vehicle for its star tenor.

Currently, Plácido Domingo has appeared in more video productions of the opera than any other tenor.[39] Also, he has recorded the complete role several times on CD and appeared in numerous stage productions of the work on both sides of the Atlantic. In his book My First Forty Years, Domingo has written about different approaches over the years towards singing the role of Otello:

As to the other question — that of singing roles that, according to self-proclaimed experts, we ought not to be singing — I have a little story to tell. When I decided to sing Otello, many people told me that I was crazy. Mario Del Monaco, they said, had had the proper kind of voice for the role, and my voice was nothing like his. Twenty years earlier, Del Monaco had been warned not to sing Otello because his voice was nothing like that of Ramon Vinay, who was then performing the opera all over the world. Vinay, of course, had heard that only a tenor with a piercing sound like Giovanni Martinelli's ought to sing the part. Some years earlier, Martinelli had had Antonin Trantoul, who had sung Otello at La Scala in the twenties, held up to him as a shining example; but at La Scala, those who still remembered the very first Otello, Francesco Tamagno, had found Trantoul completely unsatisfactory. But there exists a letter from Verdi to his publisher in which the composer makes it quite clear that Tamagno left a great deal to be desired.(Verdi expressed reservations about Tamagno's softer singing, not about the power and ring of his vocalism in dramatic passages of the score.)

A long lineage of renowned baritones have sung Iago since 1887. Among them: Victor Maurel (the role's first exponent), Mattia Battistini, Mario Ancona, Antonio Scotti, Titta Ruffo, Pasquale Amato, Carlo Galeffi and Lawrence Tibbett. Leading post-war exponents of the part have included Giuseppe Valdengo, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, Tito Gobbi, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris. As for Desdemona, too many top-class lyric sopranos to list here have undertaken the role since 1887.


Time: The late 1400s.
Place: A coastal city on the island of Cyprus.

Act 1

In front of the castle, next to the harbor.

On a stormy evening, the people of Cyprus anxiously await the arrival of the new governor, Otello, from a naval battle with the Turks (Chorus, Montano, Cassio, Iago, Roderigo: Una vela! / "A sail!"). For a moment it seems as if Otello's ship will founder, to the delight of Otello's treacherous ensign, Iago, but Otello arrives safely and announces that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed, and the Cypriots cheer (Otello, chorus: Esultate! L’orgoglio musulmano sepolto è in mar / "Rejoice! The Mussulman's pride is buried in the sea").

Iago offers to help the young Venetian gentleman Roderigo in his seduction of Otello's wife Desdemona – Iago envies Otello his success and longs to destroy the Moor (Iago, Roderigo: Roderigo, ebben che pensi? / "Well, Roderigo, what are you thinking?"). Among his grievances, Iago is outraged that Otello has appointed Cassio to be the captain of the navy, a position that Iago hoped to have. The people of Cyprus celebrate the safe return of Otello and his men by lighting a bonfire and drinking (Chorus: Fuoco di gioia!/ "Fire of joy").

Iago proposes a toast to Otello and his wife, while Cassio praises Desdemona (Iago, Cassio, Chorus, Roderigo: Roderigo, beviam! / "Roderigo, let's drink!"). Iago offers Cassio more wine, but Cassio says he has had enough. Iago pressures him and offers a toast to Otello and Desdemona. Cassio gives in. Iago sings a drinking song and continues to pour Cassio wine (Iago, Cassio, Roderigo, chorus: Inaffia l'ugola! / "Wet your throat").

Montano enters and calls for Cassio to begin his watch; he is surprised to find Cassio drunk and barely able to stand upright. Iago lies to Montano, telling him that this is how Cassio spends every evening. Roderigo laughs at Cassio's drunkenness and Cassio attacks him. Montano tells Cassio to calm down, but Cassio draws his sword and threatens to crack open Montano's head. (Montano, Cassio, Iago, Roderigo, chorus: Capitano, v’attende la fazione ai baluardi / "Captain, the guard awaits you on the ramparts".) Cassio and Montano begin to duel, and Iago sends Roderigo to call the alarm. Montano is wounded and the fight is stopped only by the appearance of Otello.

Otello orders Montano and Cassio to lower their swords. He then asks "honest Iago" to explain how the duel began, but Iago says he doesn't know. Otello then turns to Cassio, who is embarrassed and cannot excuse his actions. When Otello discovers that Montano is wounded, he becomes enraged. Desdemona enters, and, upon seeing that his bride's rest has been disturbed, Otello declares that Cassio is no longer Captain. (Otello, Iago, Cassio, Montano: Abbasso le spade / "Down with your swords".) He tells Iago to patrol the town to restore quiet, calls for help for Montano and orders everyone to return to their houses.

The Cypriots leave Otello alone with Desdemona. Together Otello and Desdemona recall why they fell in love. Otello, in an ecstasy of joy, invites death, fearing that he will never know such happiness again. Desdemona prays that their love will remain unchanged. They kiss, overcome with love for each other. (Otello, Desdemona: Già nella notte densa s'estingue ogni clamor /"Now in the dark night all noise is silenced".)

Act 2
Inside the castle, a chamber next to the garden.

Iago suggests to Cassio that he should ask Desdemona to talk to Otello about his demotion; Desdemona can influence her husband to reinstate him (Iago, Cassio: Non ti crucciar / "Do not fret"). Desdemona and Emilia can be seen walking the garden. Cassio approaches Desdemona. Watching from the room, Iago voices his nihilistic beliefs and hatred of humankind (Credo in un Dio crudel / "I believe in a cruel God").

Otello enters the room; Iago, pretending not to notice him, says that he is deeply troubled. Cassio sees Otello from afar and goes discreetly away. Otello asks what's wrong, but Iago gives only vague answers. Finally, he hints that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. Otello begins to get suspicious, but declares that he needs proof before believing that Desdemona has been unfaithful. (Iago, Otello: Ciò m’accora... Che parli? / "That worries me..." "What did you say?") Iago warns Otello against jealousy, but also advises him to be vigilant.

A crowd of children, sailors, and Cypriots sing to Desdemona, praising her beauty and purity (Chorus, Iago, children, Desdemona, Otello: Dove guardi splendono raggi / "Wherever you look, brightness shines..."). They present her with gifts and wish her happiness before leaving.

Desdemona carries Cassio's request for reinstatement to Otello. Otello sourly tells her to ask him another time; as she persists, he grows impatient and says he has a headache. Desdemona offers to wrap his head in a handkerchief Otello once gave her, linen embroidered with strawberries. Otello throws it to the ground and says he doesn't need it (Desdemona, Otello: D'un uom che geme sotto il tuo disdegno la preghiera ti porto / "I bring a petition from one who suffers under your displeasure"). Emilia picks up the handkerchief. Desdemona asks for Otello's forgiveness. Aside, Iago demands that Emilia give him the handkerchief. When she refuses, Iago forcibly takes it from her.

Otello dismisses the others, and declares that he now believes that Desdemona may be deceiving him (Otello: Ora e per sempre addio sante memorie / "Now and forever farewell, holy memories"). Iago returns, and the jealous Otello demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago says that once, when he and Cassio were sleeping in the same room, he heard Cassio talking to Desdemona in a dream. In the dream, says Iago, Cassio told Desdemona that they must be careful to conceal their love. (Iago: Era la notte, Cassio dormia / "It was night, Cassio was sleeping".) Iago says that dreams don't prove anything, but remarks that he saw Cassio carrying Desdemona's strawberry-embroidered handkerchief just the day before. Otello swears vengeance on Desdemona and Cassio, and Iago joins him in his vow (Otello, Iago: Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro / "Yes, by the marble heavens I swear").

Act-3-set design for 1887 premiere (photo: Carlo Ferrario)

Act 3
The great hall of the castle. A small hall next to the great hall.

A herald brings news of the approach of ambassadors from Venice. Iago explains to Otello that he will lure Cassio here and talk with him while Otello watches, hidden. He leaves to go get Cassio. (Iago: Qui trarrò Cassio / "Here I will bring Cassio".)

Desdemona enters and reminds Otello of Cassio's request. Otello says that his headache has returned, and asks Desdemona to wrap her handkerchief around his head. When Desdemona produces a different handkerchief, Otello demands the one with strawberries. When she says she does not have it, Otello says that it was a talisman, and troubles will befall her if she loses it. Desdemona says that he is trying to ignore Cassio's plea, and as she asks him about Cassio, he demands the handkerchief ever more insistently. (Desdemona, Otello: Dio ti giocondi, o sposo / "God keep you merry, husband".) Desdemona protests that she is faithful; Otello sends her away (Desdemona, Otello: Esterrefatta fisso lo sguardo tuo tremendo / "Terrified, I face your dreadful look").

Otello laments his fate (Dio! mi potevi scagliar tutti i mali / "God, you could have thrown every evil at me" ). When Iago calls out "Cassio is here!" Otello hides as Iago and Cassio enter. Cassio says he had hoped to see Desdemona here, for he wanted to know whether she had been successful with Otello (Iago, Cassio, Otello: Vieni; l’aula è deserta / "Come, the hall is deserted"). Iago asks him to tell of his adventures with that woman. Cassio asks which woman, and, softly, so that Otello cannot hear, Iago says "Bianca" (the name of Cassio's actual lover). As Cassio laughs about his romantic adventures, Otello assumes he is speaking of Desdemona. In a conversation only partially heard, Cassio seems to be telling Iago that another woman, a secret admirer, left him a handkerchief as a token. At Iago's urging, Cassio produces it, whereupon Iago seizes it—for it is Desdemona's—and holds it out where he knows Otello can see it. He then returns it to Cassio and teases him, while in his hiding place Otello fumes (Iago, Cassio, Otello: Questa è una ragna dove il tuo cuor casca / "This is a spiderweb in which your heart is caught").

Bugles sound, announcing the arrival of the Venetian ambassador, Lodovico. Iago warns Cassio that he should leave unless he wants to see Otello. Cassio exits, and Otello asks Iago how he should kill his wife. Iago advises Otello to kill Desdemona by suffocating her in her bed, while he will take care of Cassio. Otello promotes Iago to Captain.

Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia, Roderigo, and other dignitaries enter. When Lodovico notes Cassio's absence, Iago tells him that Cassio is out of favor. Desdemona interrupts, telling Lodovico that she hopes he will soon be restored. Otello calls her a demon and almost strikes her violently but is held back by Lodovico. Otello then calls for Cassio. (Lodovico, Otello, Desdemona, Emilia, Iago, chorus: Il Doge ed il Senato salutano l'eroe trionfatore / "The Doge and the Senate greet the triumphant hero".) Cassio enters and Otello reads (mixing in insults to Desdemona) a letter from the Doge, announcing that he (Otello) has been called back to Venice and Cassio is to succeed him as governor of Cyprus. Enraged, Otello throws Desdemona to the ground. (Otello, Roderigo, Iago, Cassio, Lodovico: Messeri! il Doge mi richiama a Venezia / "Gentlemen! The Doge recalls me to Venice".)

Desdemona, on the ground, laments (A terra! … sì … nel livido fango / "Fallen! yes, in the foul mud..."). The various characters express their feelings: Emilia and Lodovico express their sympathy for Desdemona, Cassio marvels at his sudden change of fortune, and Roderigo laments that Desdemona will soon depart. In separate asides, Iago urges Otello to take his revenge as soon as possible, while he will take care of Cassio. He advises Roderigo that the only way to prevent Desdemona from leaving is for Cassio, the new Duke, to die, and suggests that Roderigo murder Cassio that night. (Emilia, Cassio, Desdemona, Roderigo, Lodovico, Iago, Otello, chorus: Quell’innocente un fremito d'odio non ha nè un gesto / "That innocent one is without feeling or gesture of hatred"). In a fury, Otello orders everyone to leave. Desdemona goes to comfort him, but Lodovico pulls her away as Otello curses her. As the others leave, Otello raves about the handkerchief, then collapses. Iago presses Otello's forehead with his heel, then walks away. Outside the crowd of Cypriots calls out victory and glory for Otello. (Otello, Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio, Roderigo, Lodovico, Iago, chorus: Fuggite! / "Begone".)

Act 4
Desdemona's chamber. A lit lamp in front of an image of the Virgin Mary.

Desdemona is preparing for bed with the assistance of Emilia. She asks Emilia to put out the bridal gown she used on her wedding day, and says that if she dies, she wants to be buried in it. Emilia tells her not to talk about such things. Desdemona recalls how her mother's servant Barbara was abandoned by her lover, and how she used to sing the Willow Song (Desdemona: Piangea cantando nell’erma landa / "Singing, she wept on the lonely hearth"). After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays (Ave Maria) and then falls asleep.

Silently, Otello enters, with a sword. He kisses his wife three times; she awakens. Otello asks her if she has prayed tonight; she must die, and he does not wish to condemn her soul. She asks God for mercy, both for her and for Otello. Otello accuses her of sin, saying that he must kill her because she loves Cassio. Desdemona denies it and asks that he summon Cassio to testify to her innocence. Otello says that Cassio is already dead. Desdemona, horrified, pleads for mercy, but Otello tells her it's too late and strangles her (Otello, Desdemona: Diceste questa sera le vostre preci / "Have you said your prayers tonight?").

Emilia knocks at the door, announcing that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Desdemona softly calls out that she has been unjustly accused, but refuses to blame Otello. She dies. Emilia calls Otello a murderer; he retorts that Iago gave him proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Otello begins to threaten Emilia, who calls for help. Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico enter. Emilia demands that Iago deny Otello's accusation; he refuses. Otello says that the handkerchief Desdemona gave to Cassio is proof enough. Emilia, horrified, explains that Iago stole the handkerchief from her—Cassio confirms that the handkerchief appeared mysteriously in his lodgings. Montano enters and says that Roderigo, with his dying breath, has revealed Iago's plot. Iago, brandishing his sword, runs away. (Emilia, Otello, Desdemona, Cassio, Iago, Lodovico, Montano: Aprite! Aprite! / "Open up!")

After he realizes what has happened, Otello grieves over Desdemona's death. He then draws a dagger from his robe and stabs himself. Others try to stop him, but it is too late. Before he dies, he drags himself next to his wife and kisses her. He lies dead next to Desdemona. (Otello, Cassio, Lodovico, Montano: Niun mi tema / "That none fear me".)

In 1894, Verdi composed a short ballet for a French production of Otello, which takes place during the third act that precedes the entrance of Lodovico. It is rarely performed as part of the opera.

Critical evaluation of the opera
In Otello, Verdi tried to do away with the traditional recitative-aria structure of opera, much as Richard Wagner had done, except that in some cases, the distinction between recitative and aria is more clearcut in Otello than in any of Wagner's operas. Nonetheless, the flow between the set pieces is much smoother than in any of Verdi's earlier works. Verdi's librettist, Arrigo Boito, was extremely faithful to Shakespeare's original play, though act 1 of the drama (everything having to do with Brabantio, Desdemona's father) was omitted and the other scenes were condensed in length. The roles of Otello (Othello) and Iago are among the most fully developed in all of opera, as much so as in Shakespeare's original drama—especially the character of Otello himself. (Iago is much more a standard villain in the opera than in the play). Verdi's orchestral writing in Otello is more highly developed than in any of Verdi's previous masterpieces. Whereas the orchestra served as little more than an accompaniment to the singing in his earlier works, in Otello, the orchestra plays a major part in conveying the events of the opera, for example the portrayal of the depth of the evil of Iago. Some of the orchestral writing shows the influence of Wagner in its extended harmonies, chromaticism and changes of key within passages. Some of the softer passages, especially, are reminiscent of the sad, soft music of the first part of Act III of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

Musical analysis

Act 1

The storm which dominates the opening chorus is portrayed vividly by the orchestra. Rapidly changing sixteenth notes played by the lower strings and woodwinds create an image of a turbulent sea while rising and descending scales in the upper woodwinds represent the unpredictable patterns of the wind in the tempest. Frequent interjections from the brass and percussion portray the bolts of lightning and thunder which accompany the storm. Otello's first entrance is marked by brass instruments for a sense of grandeur. Verdi adds to the anxiety by having the organ hold its three lowest notes in a cluster (C–C♯–D) through the entire scene. At the end, the woodwinds gradually calm down to portray the fading of the storm, and finally the release of the low organ discord completes the feeling of relief. When the chorus sings of their joy, the high woodwinds now portray the sparkling, cheerful flames.

In the drinking song that follows, Verdi makes use of the bassoons and other low instruments in order to represent the internal effects of alcohol upon Cassio. However, this is gradually eclipsed by the merry themes which follow in the orchestra and chorus ("Chi all'esca ha morso"). The merriment of the celebrations suddenly become frantic, as Cassio challenges Montano to a duel. The full orchestra builds up to a climax as they fight whilst Iago orders Roderigo to go and alert the entire town until the ordeal is interrupted by a loud statement made by the entering Otello.

Accented notes in the orchestra, particularly in the strings, reflect the annoyance of Otello at having his sleep disturbed. Notes played piano and pizzicato by the strings accompany Iago's account of the events, giving his account a feeling of false remorse and unhappiness. Upon Otello's orders, the disturbed islanders return to their homes, accompanied by legato notes in the upper strings and woodwinds depicting the calm that has once more been reestablished.

The great love duet which ends the act commences with a statement from Otello accompanied by cellos playing pianissimo. Desdemona's reply to him is accompanied by the violins and violas, providing a contrast to the statements made by Otello previously. When the duet proper starts ("Quando narravi"), sixteenth notes played by the harp and quarter notes played by the horns and bassoons give the music a sense of motion as Desdemona describes the narrations that Otello had given her about his life. As Otello commences to speak about how he narrated the battles in which he fought, thirty-second notes in the strings in addition to the inclusion of the lower brass instruments reflect the violent topics of Otello's previous narration. However, upon Desdemona's next vocal entrance several bars later, this immense energy is translated to an overall sense of the passion of the two lover's love for each other through the use of some of the more expressive wind instruments such as the English Horn. The duet continues to build up in passion until its climax, the appearance of the "kiss" theme which reappears twice more in the Opera near the end. After this, the music begins to tone down until the act ends with a trill in two of the first violins and a plucked chord on the harp.

Act 2
The act commences with a series of dark threatening statements from the bassoons and cellos followed by repeats of these in the clarinets and violas. Quickly, a theme forms that appears to reflect the calm that has remained in the castle after the brawl the night before. However, this tone is only superficial; repeated descending chromatic scales in the strings during the brief orchestral prelude create a darker atmosphere associated with the plotting of Iago.

Iago's brief conversation with Cassio is marked by the theme from the act's introduction, making Iago appear strangely affable when he suggests that Cassio consult Desdemona; however, as before, an underlying dark tone remains.

Upon Cassio's exit, this dark tone rapidly becomes predominant as the gestures which opened the act repeat, but this time, will a full string and woodwind section. The famous aria that follows ("Credo in un Dio crudel") is marked by trills in the lowest clarinet register and quick yet powerfully accented notes played by the full orchestra at several intervals that portray the evil of Iago to its fullest extent.

Nevertheless, Iago's evil reverie is interrupted by the appearance of Desdemona and Cassio. The urgency felt by Iago in the situation is reflected in the staccato eight notes in the strings which accompany his witnessing of the situation. However, upon Otello's entry the music suddenly becomes much calmer. Otello's response to Iago's question about the preexisting relationship between Cassio and Desdemona is a typical love melody which would have been standard in an earlier Verdi opera, yet it lacks the passion that would typically accompany it and is cut short by Iago's interjection. Otello's annoyance with Iago for not directly stating his "suspicions" is suddenly reflected by an outburst in the orchestra. This is the second instance in the opera in which Otello's potential anger has been made apparent. As Iago gives the equivalent of the famous Shakespearean line from the play ("È un'idra fosca"), the low strings and woodwinds create a dark tone during this scene.

This darkness, however is interrupted by the appearance of a chorus. The chorus is accompanied by folk instruments such as the mandolin and guitar in order to give the music a more authentic feel. However, the music is slow and intentionally sweet in quality, reflecting the kind innocence of Desdemona.

The quartet that follows the episode begins with a similarly sweet statement by Desdemona, asking for Otello to forgive her if she has done anything. This is overshadowed by the aside brooding of Otello about his perception of her guilt, which is marked by shorter, more separated phrases in the strings. Meanwhile, as Iago and Emilia join into the music with their quarrel, the music darkens until it is strangely sad towards the end, even when the orchestral accompaniment ends. After the end of the quartet proper, the music once again regains its sweet nature, as Desdemona's farewell statements are accompanied by the violins and oboe, however soon after her departure, it rapidly darkens, Otello broods to the incessant notes of the bassoons and lower violin statements. However, this is immediately transferred into an anger towards Iago which is reflected in the accented statements made by the full orchestra. Otello's distress is reflected by his farewell to fame and glory ("Ora e per sempre addio"). Repeated lower chords on the harp along with triplet movement in the lower strings give the portion a dark tone, despite the majestic interludes of the brass and the melody (which would, on its own, be cheerful).

During Iago's untruthful account of Cassio's dream, strings and high woodwind instruments are used in order to create a dream-like atmosphere in the music. Descending chromatic scales both add to this atmosphere and maintain the dark overall tone which has pervaded.

The act ends with an energetic finale in which Iago and Otello swear to have vengeance. The energy of this final duet is provided by the full orchestra, which accompanies it.

Act 3
The brief prelude to the third act uses the theme which had accompanied Iago's warning to Otello about jealousy in the second act. It begin with the lower strings, immediately creating the dark theme that will be present throughout the act, even if in a hidden subsurface manner. The prelude gradually builds up until its climax with the entire orchestra.

Desdemona's appearance in the act is once again accompanied by a sweet melody, however, this is quickly subdued as Otello, in his frustration, calls her a "vil cortigiana" at which point the anger of Otello is once again portrayed by a full orchestra with brass. The music that accompanies Desdemona's reaction to this sudden outburst is sad, yet the woodwinds give it an oddly noble character, which again reaffirms her overall innocence.

After Desdemona's departure, Iago stages an interrogation of Cassio in front of Otello. This interrogation takes the form of a friendly conversation and is accompanied by jocular sixteenth note runs in the woodwinds, reflecting the joy of Cassio about his love interest with the woman Bianca. This happily playful tone is contrasted with the dark asides of the watching Otello. Throughout this scene, the dark tone pervades.

The full scene that follows is grand in the orchestration, with abundant use of brass throughout. However, following Otello's angry outbursts near the end, it quickly becomes dark and sad after Otello strikes Desdemona.

After the departure of all of the members of the scene, the turmoil within Otello's mind is reflected by the restlessness of the orchestra, which becomes increasingly violent as he falls into his trance. The dark singing of the triumphant Iago is contrasted with the majestic brass and external choral interjections praising Otello.

Act 4
The act begins with a brief prelude of woodwind instruments, particularly the English horn and oboe, which bring a sad and mourning atmosphere to the act, reflecting the sentiments which manifest themselves in Desdemona. All the while, clarinets playing in the lowest register on repeating chords create a sense of impending doom. The theme upon which this prelude is built is that of the later "Willow Song".

In the brief recitativo between Desdemona and Emilia which begins the act, the despairing tone begun in the introduction continues.

The "Willow Song" which follows is marked by an increasing orchestral sound, with woodwinds and strings adding to it, yet what compounds the sadness of the piece is the wail-like cries of "Salce" made by Desdemona followed by similarly despairing, yet softer "echoes" played by the English horn. Near the end of the song, Desdemona's fear, which has been hidden up to this point by a veil of sadness, is made apparent; she mistakes the noise of the wind for that of an intruder. The orchestra immediately builds to a fortissimo, reflecting the genuine worries possessed by Desdemona. The music that gradually lessens with the comforting of Emilia and returns for a final repetition of the theme of the "Willow Song".

Afterwards, Desdemona begins to bid Emilia adieu. This goodbye is initially accompanied by repeated notes on the lower woodwinds and strings such as those in the introduction of the act but in a much more noticeable and dominating manner. This reflects the increasing expectation of Desdemona of her death. Initially, she attempts to keep these feelings to herself, but the orchestra reveals her increasing inner thoughts. These feelings finally reach a point at which they can no longer be contained and Desdemona lets out a loud passionate cry of goodbye to Emilia, one that is reinforced by the full orchestral accompaniment.

Following Emilia's departure, Desdemona prays. Like many of Desdemona's earlier vocal appearances in the opera, these prayers contain a sweet nature, reflecting, for the final time, the innocence of the wrongly accused woman. The melody within the strings that appears later in the prayer scene adds significantly to the poignancy of the situation.

After she goes to bed, a sinister theme appears in the string bass, depicting Otello's entrance. This effectively replaces the sad tone which was present throughout the first portions with the dark one which marked much of the second and third acts. The low theme begins very slowly, but gradually accelerates until there is a sudden outburst with the full orchestra. However, soon afterwards, the music drops down to a soft tremolo in the strings. Above this, a theme that evokes Otello's longing for Desdemona appears in the English horn and bassoons. This theme builds up until it finally gives way to the "kiss" theme from act 1, as Otello embraces the sleeping Desdemona. However this second appearance of the theme is even more passionate than the first one and adds to the poignancy of the tragedy.

Once Desdemona awakens, the music retreats to the theme that accompanied Otello's entrance, but with a more threatening feel this time as brass instruments are added. As Otello demands that Desdemona confess, the music accelerates, reaching a climax at the point where Desdemona is strangled. After this, though the power of the orchestra lessens, it maintains its darkness throughout the scene of Emilia's discovery of the murder and Desdemona's final death.

The scene with that follows is marked by a theme that is somewhat majestic and proud, however, as it is limited to the woodwinds, it seems weak. This reflects the loss of power and honor that have faced Otello.

As Otello laments his actions to the theme of his longing, he decides to commit suicide. Just before he dies, the orchestra plays the "kiss" motif one final time before the opera ends.

Otello is scored for the following instruments:

In the orchestra: 3 flutes (the third doubles as a piccolo), 2 oboes, 1 english horn, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 cornets, 2 trumpets, 4 trombones, 1 harp, percussion (timpani, cymbals, bass drum, gong), strings (violin I and II, viola, cello, double bass)

Offstage: 6 trumpets, 4 trombones, organ, bagpipes, mandolins, guitars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello / Solti - Domingo - Price /
Otello - Plácido Domingo
Desdemona - Margaret Price
Iago - Gabriel Bacquier
Cassio - Horst R Laubenthal
Lodovico - Kurt Moll
Montano - Marc Vento
Emilia - Jane Berbié
Conductor - Georg Solti
Orchestra - L'Opéra de Paris - 1976
Giuseppe Verdi - Otello
Otello - Jon Vickers
Desdemona - Mirella Freni
Jago - Peter Glossop
Emilia - Stefania Malagu
Cassio - Aldo Bottion
Roderigo - Michel Senechal
Lodovico - Jose van Dam
Verdi - Otello - Willow Song - Maria Callas
Verdi - Otello - Act 4
Desdemona's Willow Song & Ave Maria
Maria Callas, Soprano
Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire
Nicola Rescingno, Conductor
Renee Fleming sings "The willow song" Otello
Thèatre du Chàtelet Paris. May 23, 2002
Placido Domingo & Renee Fleming - Otello, Act 4
Met, 1996
Cond.: James Levine
Renee Fleming "Ave Maria" Otello
Thèatre du Chàtelet Paris. May 23, 2002
"Falstaff" - 1893
Falstaff (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfalstaf]) is an opera in three acts by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was adapted by Arrigo Boito from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. The work, described by its creators as a commedia lirica, premiered on 9 February 1893 at La Scala, Milan. Verdi wrote Falstaff, which was the last of his twenty-eight operas, as he was approaching the age of eighty. It was his second comedy, and his third work based on a Shakespeare play, following Macbeth and Otello. The plot revolves around the thwarted, sometimes farcical, efforts of the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff, to seduce two married women for mercenary reasons.

Boito persuaded Verdi out of retirement to compose the opera, which took the collaborators three years from mid-1889 to complete. Although the prospect of a new opera from Verdi aroused immense interest in Italy and round the world, Falstaff did not prove to be as popular as earlier works in the composer's canon. After the initial performances in Italy, other European countries and the US, the work was neglected until the conductor Arturo Toscanini insisted on its revival at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Some felt that the piece suffered from a lack of the full-blooded melodies of the best of Verdi's previous operas, a view strongly contradicted by Toscanini. Conductors of the generation after Toscanini to champion the work included Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti and Leonard Bernstein. The work is now part of the regular operatic repertory.

Verdi made numerous changes to the music after the first performance and editors have found difficulty in agreeing on a definitive score. The work was first recorded in 1932, and has subsequently received many studio recordings and live tapings. Singers closely associated with the title role have included Victor Maurel (the first Falstaff), Mariano Stabile, Giuseppe Valdengo, Tito Gobbi, Geraint Evans and Bryn Terfel.

Composition history

By 1889 Verdi had been an opera composer for more than fifty years. He had written twenty-seven operas, of which only one was a comedy – Un giorno di regno, his second work, staged unsuccessfully in 1840. His fellow-composer Rossini commented that he admired Verdi greatly, but thought him incapable of writing a comedy. Verdi disagreed, and said that he longed to write another light-hearted opera, but nobody would give him the chance. In his tragic operas Verdi introduced moments of comedy in, for instance, Un ballo in maschera and La forza del destino. In 1850 he considered but finally rejected a suggestion of writing an operatic version of Shakespeare's The Tempest for Covent Garden.

For a comic subject Verdi considered Cervantes's Don Quixote and plays by Goldoni, Molière and Labiche, but found none of them wholly suitable. The singer Victor Maurel sent him a French libretto based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Verdi liked it, but replied that "to deal with it properly you need a Rossini or a Donizetti." Following the success of Otello in 1887 he commented, "After having relentlessly massacred so many heroes and heroines, I have at last the right to laugh a little." He confided his ambition to the librettist of Otello, Arrigo Boito. Boito said nothing at the time, but he secretly began work on a libretto based on The Merry Wives of Windsor with additional material taken from Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. Many composers had set the play to music, with little success, among them Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1796), Antonio Salieri (1799), Michael William Balfe (1835) and Adolphe Adam (1856). The first version to secure a place in the operatic repertoire was Otto Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1849, but its success was largely confined to German opera houses.

Boito was doubly pleased with The Merry Wives as a plot. Not only was it Shakespearian; it was based in part on Trecento Italian works – Il Pecorone by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, and Boccaccio's Decameron. Boito adopted a deliberately archaic form of Italian to "lead Shakespeare's farce back to its clear Tuscan source" as he put it.[10] He trimmed the plot, halved the number of characters in the play, and gave the character of Falstaff more depth by incorporating dozens of passages from Henry IV.

Verdi received the draft libretto a few weeks later, probably in early July 1889, at a time when his interest had been piqued by reading Shakespeare's play: "Benissimo! Benissimo!... No one could have done better than you", he wrote back. Like Boito, Verdi loved and revered Shakespeare. The composer did not speak English, but owned and frequently re-read Shakespeare's plays in Italian translations by Carlo Rusconi and Giulio Carcano, which he kept by his bedside. He had earlier set operatic adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth (in 1847) and Othello (in 1887) and had considered King Lear as a subject; Boito had suggested Antony and Cleopatra.

Verdi still had doubts, and on the next day sent another letter to Boito expressing his concerns. He wrote of "the large number of years in my age", his health (which he admits to being good) and his ability to complete the project: "if I were not to finish the music?". He said that the project could all be a waste of the younger man's time, and distract Boito from completing his own new opera (which became Nerone). Yet, as his biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz notes, "Verdi could not hide his delight at the idea of writing another opera". On 10 July 1889 he wrote again:

Amen; so be it! So let's do Falstaff! For now, let's not think of obstacles, of age, of illnesses! I also want to keep the deepest secrecy: a word that I underline three times to you that no one must know anything about it! [He notes that his wife will know about it, but assures Boito that she can keep a secret.] Anyway, if you are in the mood, then start to write.

Falstaff, by Charles Robert Leslie

Boito's original sketch is lost, but surviving correspondence shows that the finished opera is not greatly different from his first thoughts. The major differences were that a monologue for Ford was moved from act 2 scene 2 to scene 1, and that the last act originally ended with the marriage of the lovers rather than with the lively vocal and orchestral fugue, which was Verdi's idea. He wrote to Boito in August 1889 telling him that he was writing a fugue: "Yes, Sir! A fugue ... and a buffa fugue", which "could probably be fitted in".

Verdi accepted the need to trim Shakespeare's plot to keep the opera within an acceptable length. He was sorry, nonetheless, to see the loss of Falstaff's second humiliation, dressed up as the Wise Woman of Brentford to escape from Ford. Verdi, like Boito, was anxious to do justice to Shakespeare: "To sketch the characters in a few strokes, to weave the plot, to extract all the juice from that enormous Shakespearian orange". Shortly after the premiere an English critic, R A Streatfeild, remarked on how Verdi succeeded:

The leading note of [Falstaff]'s character is sublime self-conceit. If his belief in himself were shattered, he would be merely a vulgar sensualist and debauchee. As it is, he is a hero. For one terrible moment in the last act his self-satisfaction wavers. He looks round and sees every one laughing at him. Can it be that he has been made a fool of? But no, he puts the horrible suggestion from him, and in a flash is himself again. "Son io," he exclaims with a triumphant inspiration, "che vi fa scaltri. L'arguzia mia crea l'arguzia degli altri." ["I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men", a line from Henry IV part 2.] Verdi has caught this touch and indeed a hundred others throughout the opera with astonishing truth and delicacy.

In November Boito took the completed first act to Verdi at Santa'Agata, along with the second act, which was still under construction: "That act has the devil on its back; and when you touch it, it burns," Boito complained. They worked on the opera for a week, then Verdi and his wife Giuseppina Strepponi went to Genoa. No more work was done for some time.

The first act was completed by March 1890; the rest of the opera was not composed in chronological order, as had been Verdi's usual practice. The musicologist Roger Parker comments that this piecemeal approach may have been "an indication of the relative independence of individual scenes". Progress was slow, with composition "carried out in short bursts of activity interspersed with long fallow periods" partly caused by the composer's depression. Verdi was weighed down by the fear of being unable to complete the score, and also by the deaths and impending deaths of close friends, including the conductors Franco Faccio and Emanuele Muzio. There was no pressure on the composer to hurry; as he observed at the time, he was not working on a commission from a particular opera house as he had in the past, but was composing for his own pleasure: "in writing Falstaff, I haven't thought about either theatres or singers". He reiterated this idea in December 1890, a time when his spirits were very low after Muzio's death that November: "Will I finish it [Falstaff]? Or will I not finish it? Who knows! I am writing without any aim, without a goal, just to pass a few hours of the day". By early 1891 he was declaring that he could not finish the work that year, but in May he expressed some small optimism, which by mid-June, had turned into:

The Big Belly ["pancione", the name given to the opera before the composition of Falstaff became public knowledge] is on the road to madness. There are some days when he does not move, he sleeps, and is in a bad humour. At other times he shouts, runs, jumps, and tears the place apart; I let him act up a bit, but if he goes on like this, I will put him in a muzzle and straightjacket.

Boito was overjoyed, and Verdi reported that he was still working on the opera. The two men met in October or November 1891, after which the Verdis were in Genoa for the winter. They were both taken ill there, and two months of work were lost. By mid-April 1891 the scoring of the first act was complete and by June–July Verdi was considering potential singers for roles in Falstaff. For the title role he wanted Victor Maurel, the baritone who had sung Iago in Otello, but at first the singer sought contractual terms that Verdi found unacceptable: "His demands were so outrageous, exorbitant, [and] incredible that there was nothing else to do but stop the entire project". Eventually they reached agreement and Maurel was cast.

By September Verdi had agreed in a letter to his publisher Casa Ricordi that La Scala could present the premiere during the 1892–93 season, but that he would retain control over every aspect of the production. An early February date was mentioned along with the demand that the house would be available exclusively after 2 January 1893 and that, even after the dress rehearsal, he could withdraw the opera: "I will leave the theatre, and [Ricordi] will have to take the score away". Apart from Verdi's outrage at the way that La Scala announced the following year's programme on 7 December – "either a revival of Tannhäuser or Falstaff" – things went smoothly in January 1893 up to the premiere performance on 9 February.

The writer Russ McDonald observes that a letter from Boito to Verdi touches on the musical techniques used in the opera: he wrote of how to portray the characters Nannetta and Fenton: "I can't quite explain it: I would like as one sprinkles sugar on a tart to sprinkle the whole comedy with that happy love without concentrating it at any one point."

Poster for original cast performance, Trieste, 1894

Performance history


The first performance of Falstaff was at La Scala in Milan on 9 February 1893. For the first night, official ticket prices were thirty times greater than usual. Royalty, aristocracy, critics and leading figures from the arts all over Europe were present. The performance was a huge success; numbers were encored, and at the end the applause for Verdi and the cast lasted an hour. That was followed by a tumultuous welcome when the composer, his wife and Boito arrived at the Grand Hotel de Milan.

Over the next two months the work was given twenty-two performances in Milan, and then taken by the original company, led by Maurel, to Genoa, Rome, Venice, Trieste, Vienna and Berlin. After Verdi and Strepponi had left Milan on 2 March, Ricordi encouraged the composer to go to the planned Rome performance of 14 April, to maintain the momentum and excitement that the opera had generated. The Verdis, along with Boito, Stolz and Giulio Ricordi, attended together with King Umberto I and other major royal and political figures of the day. The king introduced Verdi to the audience from the Royal Box to great acclaim, "a national recognition and apotheosis of Verdi that had never been tendered him before", notes Phillips-Matz.

During these early performances Verdi made substantial changes to the score. For some of these he altered his manuscript, but for others musicologists have had to rely on the numerous full and piano scores put out by his publisher, Ricordi. Further changes were made for the Paris premiere in 1894, which are also inadequately documented. Ricordi attempted to keep up with the changes, issuing new edition after new edition, but the orchestral and piano scores were often mutually contradictory. The Verdi scholar James Hepokoski considers that a definitive score of the opera is impossible, leaving companies and conductors to choose between a variety of options. In a 2013 study Philip Gossett disagrees, believing that the autograph is essentially a reliable source, augmented by contemporary Ricordi editions for the few passages that Verdi omitted to amend in his own score.

The first performance abroad were in Trieste and Vienna, in May 1893. The work was given in the Americas and across Europe. Antonio Scotti played the title role in Buenos Aires in July 1893; Gustav Mahler conducted the opera in Hamburg in January 1894; a Russian translation was presented in St Petersburg in the same month. Paris was regarded by many as the operatic capital of Europe, and for the production there in April 1894 Boito, who was fluent in French, made his own translation, with the help of a Parisian poet, Paul Solanges. This translation, approved by Verdi, is quite free in its rendering of Boito's original Italian text. Boito was content to delegate the English and German translations to William Beatty Kingston and Max Kalbeck respectively. The London premiere, sung in Italian, was at Covent Garden on 19 May 1894. The conductor was Mancinelli, and Zilli and Pini Corsi repeated their original roles. Falstaff was sung by Arturo Pessina; Maurel played the role at Covent Garden the following season. On 4 February 1895 the work was first presented at the Metropolitan Opera, New York; Mancinelli conducted and the cast included Maurel as Falstaff, Emma Eames as Alice, Zélie de Lussan as Nannetta and Sofia Scalchi as Mistress Quickly.

After the initial excitement audiences quickly diminished. Operagoers were nonplussed by the absence of big traditional arias and choruses. A contemporary critic summed it up: "'Is this our Verdi?' they asked themselves. 'But where is the motive; where are the broad melodies ... where are the usual ensembles; the finales?'" The rising young conductor Arturo Toscanini was a strong advocate of the work, and did much to save it from neglect. He was appointed musical director of La Scala in 1898, where he programmed Falstaff from the start of his tenure. When appointed to the Metropolitan Opera in 1908 he again restored Falstaff to the bills. Richard Aldrich, music critic of The New York Times, wrote that Toscanini's revival "ought to be marked in red letters in the record of the season. Falstaff, which was first produced here on Feb. 4. 1895, has not been given since the following season, and was heard in these two seasons only half a dozen times in all." Aldrich added that though the general public might have had difficulty with the work, "to connoisseurs it was an unending delight".

In Britain, as in continental Europe and the US, the work fell out of the repertoire. Sir Thomas Beecham revived it in 1919, and recalling in his memoirs that the public had stayed away he commented:

I have often been asked why I think Falstaff is not more of a box-office attraction, and I do not think the answer is far to seek. Let it be admitted that there are fragments of melody as exquisite and haunting as anything that Verdi has written elsewhere, such as the duet of Nanetta and Fenton in the first act and the song of Fenton at the beginning of the final scene, which have something of the lingering beauty of an Indian summer But in comparison with every other work of the composer, it is wanting in tunes of a broad and impressive character, and one or two of the type of "O Mia Regina", "Ritorna Vincitor", or "Ora per sempre addio" might have helped the situation.

Toscanini recognised that this was the view of many, but he believed the work to be Verdi's greatest opera; he said, "I believe it will take years and years before the general public understand this masterpiece, but when they really know it they will run to hear it like they do now for Rigoletto and La traviata."

Toscanini returned to La Scala in 1921 and remained in charge there until 1929, presenting Falstaff in every season. He took the work to Germany and Austria in the late 1920s and the 1930s, conducting it in Vienna, Berlin and at three successive Salzburg Festivals. Among those inspired by Toscanini's performances were Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti, who were among his répétiteurs at Salzburg. Toscanini's younger colleague Tullio Serafin continued to present the work in Germany and Austria after Toscanini refused to perform there because of his loathing of the Nazi regime.

When Karajan was in a position to do so he added Falstaff to the repertoire of his opera company at Aachen in 1941, and remained a proponent of the work for the rest of his career, presenting it frequently, in Vienna, Salzburg and elsewhere, and making audio and video recordings of it. Solti also became closely associated with Falstaff, as did Carlo Maria Giulini; they both conducted many performances of the work in mainland Europe, Britain and the US and made several recordings. Leonard Bernstein conducted the work at the Met and the Vienna State Opera, and on record. The advocacy of these and later conductors has given the work an assured place in the modern repertoire. Nevertheless, there remains a view expressed by John von Rhein in The Chicago Tribune in 1985: "Falstaff probably always will fall into the category of 'connoisseur's opera' rather than taking its place as a popular favorite on the order of La Traviata or Aida."

As noted by Operabase, Falstaff is frequently performed throughout the world. During the 2012/13 season, it appeared at number 32 of the 50 operas most often performed; in the 2009/10 season it ranked at number 24.[58]


Time: The reign of Henry IV, 1399 to 1413[61]
Place: Windsor, England

Act 1

A room at the Garter Inn

Falstaff and his servants, Bardolfo and Pistola, are drinking at the inn. Dr Caius bursts in and accuses Falstaff of burgling his house and Bardolfo of picking his pocket. He is ejected. Falstaff hands a letter to each of his servants for delivery to Alice Ford and Meg Page, two wealthy married women. In these two identical letters, Falstaff professes his love for each of the women, although it is access to their husbands' money that he chiefly covets. Bardolfo and Pistola refuse, claiming that honour prevents them from obeying him. Falstaff dispatches his page, Robin, to deliver the letters. Falstaff delivers a tirade at his rebellious followers (L'onore! Ladri...! / "Honour! You rogues...!") telling them that honour is a mere word and is of no practical value. He chases them out of his sight.

Ford's garden

Alice and Meg have received Falstaff's letters. They compare them, see that they are identical and, together with Mistress Quickly and Nannetta Ford, resolve to punish Falstaff. Meanwhile, Ford has been warned of the letters by Bardolfo and Pistola. All three are thirsty for revenge, and are supported by Dr Caius and Fenton, a young gentleman. To Ford's disapproval, Fenton is in love with Nannetta. Finding a moment to be alone, the young lovers exchange banter. They are interrupted by the return of Alice, Meg and Mistress Quickly. The act ends with an ensemble in which the women on one side of the stage and the men on the other plan revenge on Falstaff.

Engraving of scene from Falstaff with the lovers behind a screen and Falstaff hidden in the laundry basket
Engraving by Ettore Tito of act 2, scene 2, from the original production. Ford and the servants creep towards Fenton and Nannetta, who they think are Falstaff and Alice, behind the screen, while the women stifle Falstaff in the laundry basket.

Act 2
A room at the Garter Inn

Falstaff is alone at the inn. Bardolfo and Pistola, now in the pay of Ford, enter and pretend to beg for forgiveness for past transgressions. They announce to their master the arrival of Mistress Quickly, who delivers an invitation to go to Alice's house that afternoon between the hours of two and three. She also delivers an answer from Meg Page and assures Falstaff that neither is aware of the other's invitation. Falstaff celebrates his potential success ("Va, vecchio John" / "Go, old Jack, go your own way"). Ford is now introduced, masquerading as "Signor Fontana", supposedly an admirer of Alice; he offers money to the fat knight to seduce her. Falstaff is puzzled at the request, and "Fontana" explains that if Alice succumbs to Falstaff, it will then be easier for Fontana to overcome her virtuous scruples. Falstaff agrees with pleasure and reveals that he already has a rendezvous arranged with Alice for two o'clock – the hour when Ford is always absent from home. Falstaff goes off to change into his best clothes; Ford is consumed with jealousy (È sogno o realtà? / "Is it a dream or reality?"). When Falstaff returns in his finery, they leave together with elaborate displays of mutual courtesy.

A room in Ford's house

The three women plot their strategy ("Gaie Comari di Windsor" / "Merry wives of Windsor, the time has come!"). They are in high spirits, but Alice notices that Nannetta is not. This is because Ford plans to marry her to Dr Caius, a man old enough to be her grandfather; the women reassure her that they will prevent it. Mistress Quickly announces Falstaff's arrival and Mistress Ford has a large hamper and a screen placed in readiness. Falstaff's attempts to seduce Alice with tales of his past glory ("Quand'ero paggio del Duca di Norfolk" / "When I was page to the Duke of Norfolk I was slender") are cut short, as Mistress Quickly reports the impending arrival of Ford with a retinue of henchmen to catch his wife's lover. Falstaff hides first behind the screen and then the women hide him in the hamper. In the meantime Fenton and Nannetta have hidden behind the screen. The men hear the sound of a kiss behind it. They assume it is Falstaff with Alice, but instead they find the young lovers. Ford orders Fenton to leave. Inside the hamper Falstaff is almost suffocating. While the men resume the search of the house Alice orders her servants to throw the hamper through the window into the River Thames, where Falstaff is compelled to endure the jeers of the crowd.

Act 3
Before the inn

Falstaff glumly curses the sorry state of the world. Some mulled wine soon improves his mood. Mistress Quickly enters and delivers another invitation to meet Alice. Falstaff at first wants nothing to do with it, but she persuades him. He is to meet Alice at midnight at Herne's Oak in Windsor Great Park dressed up as the Herne the Hunter. He and Mistress Quickly go inside the inn. Ford has realised his error in suspecting his wife, and together they and their allies have been watching secretly, and now concoct a plan for Falstaff's punishment. Dressed as supernatural creatures, they will ambush and torment him at midnight. Ford privately proposes a separate plot to Caius: Nannetta will be disguised as Queen of the Fairies, Caius will wear a monk's costume, and Ford will join the two of them with a nuptial blessing. Mistress Quickly overhears, and quietly vows to thwart Ford's scheme.

Herne's Oak in Windsor Park on a moonlit midnight

Fenton arrives at the oak tree and sings of his happiness ("Dal labbro il canto estasiato vola" / "From my lips, a song of ecstasy flies") ending with "Lips that are kissed lose none of their allure." Nannetta enters to finish the line with "Indeed, they renew it, like the moon." The women arrive and disguise Fenton as a monk, telling him that they have arranged things so as to spoil Ford's and Caius's plans. Nannetta, as the Fairy Queen, instructs her helpers ("Sul fil d'un soffio etesio" / "On the breath of a fragrant breeze, fly, nimble spirits") before all the characters arrive on the scene. Falstaff's attempted love scene with Alice is interrupted by the announcement that witches are approaching, and the men, disguised as elves and fairies, soundly thrash Falstaff. At length he recognises Bardolfo in disguise. The joke is over, and Falstaff acknowledges that he has received his due. Ford announces that a wedding shall ensue. Caius and the Queen of the Fairies enter. A second couple, also in masquerade, ask Ford to deliver the same blessing for them as well. Ford conducts the double ceremony. Caius finds that instead of Nannetta, his bride is the disguised Bardolfo, and Ford has unwittingly blessed the marriage of Fenton and Nannetta. Ford accepts the fait accompli with good grace. Falstaff, pleased to find himself not the only dupe, proclaims in a fugue, which the entire company sings, that all the world is folly and all are figures of fun (Tutto nel mondo è burla... Tutti gabbati! / "Everything in the world is a jest...").

Verdi scored Falstaff for 3 flutes (third doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, timpani, percussion (triangle, cymbals, bass drum), harp, and strings. In addition, a guitar, natural horn, and bell are heard from offstage.

McDonald commented in 2009 that Falstaff is very different – a stylistic departure – from Verdi's earlier work.[62] In McDonald's view most of the musical expression is in the dialogue, and there is only one traditional aria.[62] The result is that "such stylistic economy – more sophisticated, more challenging than he had employed before – is the keynote of the work." McDonald argues that consciously or unconsciously, Verdi was developing the idiom that would come to dominate the music of the 20th century: "the lyricism is abbreviated, glanced at rather than indulged. Melodies bloom suddenly and then vanish, replaced by contrasting tempo or an unexpected phrase that introduces another character or idea".[62] In McDonald's view the orchestral writing acts as a sophisticated commentator on the action. It has influenced at least one of Verdi's operatic successors: in 1952 Imogen Holst, musical assistant to Benjamin Britten, wrote, after a performance of Falstaff, "I realised for the first time how much Ben owes to [Verdi]. There are orchestral bits which are just as funny to listen to as the comic instrumental bits in A. Herring!"

The extent to which Falstaff is a "Shakespearian" opera has often been debated by critics. Although the action is taken from The Merry Wives of Windsor, some commentators feel that Boito and Verdi have transmuted Shakespeare's play into a wholly Italian work. The soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf believed there was nothing English or Shakespearian about the comedy: "it was all done through the music". In 1961 Peter Heyworth wrote in The Observer, "Because of Shakespeare we like to think of Falstaff as a work that has a certain Englishness. In fact the opera is no more English than Aida is Egyptian. Boito and Verdi between them transformed the fat knight into one of the archetypes of opera buffa." Verdi himself was firm in his view that the Falstaff of the opera is not a conventional Italian buffo character, but portrays Shakespeare's fuller, more ambiguous Falstaff of the Henry IV plays:

My Falstaff is not merely the hero of The Merry Wives of Windsor, who is simply a buffoon, and allows himself to be tricked by the women, but also the Falstaff of the two parts of Henry IV. Boito has written the libretto in accordance.

The libretto has caused similar disagreements, from the contemporary critic who wrote that the text "imitated with marvellous accuracy the metre and rhythm of Shakespeare's verse", to Hepokoski, who comments on Boito's use of traditional Italian metric conventions.

Another recurrent question is how much, if at all, Verdi was influenced by Wagner's comic opera Die Meistersinger. At the time of the premiere this was a sensitive subject; many Italians were suspicious of or hostile to Wagner's music, and were protective in a nationalistic way of Verdi's reputation. Nevertheless, Verdi's new style was markedly different from that of his popular works of the 1850s and 1860s, and seemed to some to have Wagnerian echoes. In 1999 the critic Andrew Porter wrote, "That Falstaff was Verdi's and Boito's answer to Wagner's Meistersinger seems evident now. But the Italian Falstaff moves more quickly."

Toscanini, who did more than anyone else to bring Falstaff into the regular operatic repertoire, spoke of "the difference between Falstaff, which is the absolute masterpiece, and Die Meistersinger, which is an outstanding Wagnerian opera. Just think for a moment how many musical means – beautiful ones, certainly – Wagner must make use of to describe the Nuremberg night. And look how Verdi gets a similarly startling effect at a similar moment with three notes."[68]

There are two early recordings of Falstaff's short arietta "Quand' ero paggio". Pini Corsi, the original Ford, recorded it in 1904, and Maurel followed in 1907. The first recording of the complete opera was made by Italian Columbia in March and April 1932. It was conducted by Lorenzo Molajoli with the chorus and orchestra of La Scala, and a cast including Giacomo Rimini as Falstaff and Pia Tassinari as Alice. Some live stage performances were recorded in the 1930s, but the next studio recording was that conducted by Toscanini for broadcast by NBC in 1950, released on disc by RCA. The first stereophonic recording was conducted by Herbert von Karajan for EMI in 1956.

Among the singers whose performances of the title role are on live or studio recordings, Italians include Renato Bruson, Tito Gobbi, Rolando Panerai, Ruggero Raimondi, Mariano Stabile, Giuseppe Taddei and Giuseppe Valdengo; Francophone singers include Gabriel Bacquier, Jean-Philippe Lafont and José van Dam; Germans include Walter Berry, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hans Hotter; UK and US singers include Geraint Evans, Donald Gramm, Bryn Terfel, Leonard Warren and Willard White.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Giuseppe Verdi - Falstaff
Commedia lirica in tre atti. Libretto, Arrigo Boito, after Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Henry IV". Rolando Panerai, bass: Sir John Falstaff. Alan Titus, baritone: Ford. Frank Lopardo, tenor: Fenton. Piero de Palma, tenor: Dr. Cajus. Ulrich Ress, tenor: Bardolfo. Fransesco Ellero d'Artegna, bass: Pistola. Sharon Sweet, soprano: Mrs. Alice Ford. Julie Kaufmann, soprano: Nannetta. Marilyn Horne, mezzo-soprano: Mrs. Quickly. Susan Quittmeyer, mezzo-soprano: Mrs Meg Page. Symphonieorchester & Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Sir Colin Davis, conductor.
Verdi: Falstaff- Finale
The famous finale from Falstaff by Verdi.
The conductor is Solti, Falstaff is Bacquier.
Iwona Sobotka - soprano, Verdi - Falstaff, Nanetta
Falstaff - Giuseppe Verdi - The Royal Opera House
The spectacular opening production of Londons newly-restored Royal Opera House, first broadcast live on BBC television in December 1999, brings a riot of color to Verdis great Shakespearean masterpiece.

Bryn Terfel as Sir John Falstaff and Barbara Frittoli as Alice Ford lead a star cast with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House under the direction of Bernard Haitink, in a spectacular new production by Graham Vick.

Extra features included in this DVD are a fascinating tour behind the scenes of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Graham Vick on his production of Falstaff; illustrated synopsis, presented by James Naughtie; and Bryn Terfel talking to Eamonn Holmes

Sung in Italian, with English subtitles

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