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Verdi’s Otello – Part II

Dr. Samuel Johnson said that opera is the most irrational of all the arts. The human voice is forced to do things it is not designed to do. It is odd. At the same time, using song to make dramatic statements is powerful. Nothing like it. No other art form can do this: the human voice in song is joined with musical instruments to make an emotional point. Aside from the given difference between the theatrical stage and the operatic stage, the key difference in Shakespeare’s Othello and Verdi’s Otello is the belief in Original Sin. Shakespeare’s characters are complex because it tells of eternal truths. Othello is a courageous man who falls from grace; Desdemona is a virtuous woman who makes errors of judgment, yet remains virtuous. Iago is a likeable fellow who has pure evil in his heart. All these characters have the capacity for good and evil. They have a choice, a free will. Otello on the other hand reflects nineteenth century romanticism. It is emotional, sentimental. The contrasts are bigger. Good is white, evil is black. Nature itself is corrupt, thus we are corrupt. A post-Darwinist view of man and the world.

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