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Verdi’s Otello – Part I

Opera as an art form is a relative newcomer, making its first appearance at the end of the sixteenth century. Its origins were an attempt to revive Greek theater. The ancient manuscripts were readily available, but there was no record of the music. All Greek plays were sung. Thus the effort began to take classical stories and set them to music. Opera is a sung play. By the early 1600’s, opera had spread throughout Europe. Extremely popular. Because of the cost of these productions, only the wealthy could afford the ticket price and opera became upper class entertainment. The real explosion of opera occurred in the nineteenth century with a string of talented composers, Wagner and Verdi in particular. The German influence in opera colored the Italian form and compelled Verdi to come out of retirement, team up with librettist Boito, and put Otello on stage in Milan in February 1887. It was an immediate success. Opera appeals to the senses, to the emotions. Everything in opera is seeking an emotional response. Verdi’s Otello is a romantic story instead of the dark tragedy by Shakespeare. For example, Desdemona is an entirely different woman in both versions, trickster verses innocent victim.

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