Composer Giuseppe Verdi

Saturday, 02. July 2005
07:00 pm – 10:05 pm

Duration est. 3 hours 05 minutes · 1 Interval between 1. + 2. Akt and 3. Akt (est. 08:15 pm - 08:45 pm )

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Musikalische Leitung
Zubin Mehta
Francesca Zambello
Alphonse Poulin
Bühne und Kostüme
Alison Chitty
Mimi Jordan Sherin
Sören Eckhoff

José Cura
Sergei Leiferkus
Raymond Very
Kevin Conners
Maurizio Muraro
Steven Humes
Ein Herold
Matthias Wippich
Barbara Frittoli
Hannah Esther Minutillo
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Three characters – a lethal drama! Jago's vanity: offended. Otello's emotions: unrestrained. Desdemona's love: helpless. Plus a handkerchief as corpus dilecti. Never did Verdi compose revenge, intrigue and jealousy with more fiery, diabolical music as he provides in this opera written toward the end of his long career. A fascinating murder mystery!


Act One

Otello, the governor of Cyprus, which is under Venetian rule, has beaten the Turks in a battle at sea. There is a terrible storm and Otello's fleet manages to reach the harbour safely on the coast of Cyprus. The local inhabitants celebrate the victory; only Jago and Roderigo do not join in the jubilation. Jago, Otello's ensign, is angry because the latter has promoted Cassio, making him a captain, instead of Jago himself; and Roderigo, a Venetian nobleman, is hopelessly in love with Otello's wife Desdemona.

Jago ist bent on taking revenge on Otello. He deliberately makes Cassio drunk at the victory celebration and goads Roderigo into taunting the captain into a brawl. His plan is successful. Montano, Otello's predecessor as governor of the island, tries to separate the struggling men, and Cassio wounds him in the fight that follows. Otello, disturbed by the tumult during his reunion with Desdemona, arrives on the scene and dismisses Cassio. The people disperse and quiet returns to the street. Otello and Desdemona are alone and declare their love for each other.

Act Two

Jago continues his plotting. He advises Cassio to induce Desdemona to plead with Otello for his reinstatement. Jago himself, however, craftily uses a conversation with Otello to fan his jealousy of Cassio. Immediately after that Desdemona asks her husband to pardon Cassio. Otello refuses to give the matter any consideration. Desdemona makes as if to wipe his brow with the handkerchief he gave her as the first token of his love. Otello angrily throws it to the ground. Jago's wife, Emilia, picks it up and Jago takes it from her.

Otello demands that Jago should provide him with proof that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Jago describes a dream Cassio is supposed to have had, in which he talked in his sleep of his love for Desdemona, and he tells Otello that he has seen Desdemona’s handkerchief in Cassio's hands. Otello is now convinced of Desdemona's guilt. Jago joins him in swearing revenge.

Act Three

A herald announces the arrival of the Venetian ambassadors. Desdemona again begs her husband to pardon Cassio. Otello refuses to listen to her and instead asks her where her handkerchief is. She cannot find it. Otello now gives full vent to his fury and accuses Desdemona of adultery. Jago engages Cassio in a conversation which is overheard by Otello. Jago contrives to have Cassio make frivolous remarks about his mistress, Bianca, which Otello then thinks refer to Desdemona. When Otello sees the handkerchief, which Jago has secretly conveyed to Cassio's chambers, in the hands of his supposed rival, he sees this as proof of Desdemona's guilt. The Venetian ambassadors approach. Otello and Jago decide to kill Desdemona. Otello rewards Jago by promoting him to the rank of captain.

Otello receives the delegation led by Lodovico. They bring him the news that the Doge has recalled him to Venice and appointed Cassio to be his successor on Cyprus. Otello is overcome by rage and strikes down Desdemona, to the horror of all present. Jago advises Roderigo to murder Cassio in order to prevent the departure of Otello and Desdemona from Cyprus. Overcome by his emotions, Otello orders everyone to leave and curses Desdemona before falling to the ground in a swoon.

Act Four

Desdemona is getting ready to go to bed. With a great sense of foreboding she says goodbye to Emilia. After saying her Ave Maria she falls asleep. Otello comes in. He stares at her for a long time and then kisses her, and she awakes. Desdemona swears that she is innocent of the crime he thinks she has committed, but she fails to convince Otello that she has always been faithful. Otello strangles her.

When Emilia rushes in with the news that Cassio has killed Roderigo, she discovers Desdemona dead. She screams for help and Lodovico, Cassio, Jago and Montano rush in. Montano tells how he has heard the dying Roderigo reveal Jago's villainy. Jago flees. Otello kills himself.

Translation: Susan Bollinger

© Bavarian State Opera

Francesca Zambello - Rotting Relationships, Moral Decay

Verdi's Otello is a masterwork of compactness. It brings Shakespeare's tragedy right to the core and concentrates on the fateful drama among four people, whose mutual suspicion will ultimately bring misfortune over them all. Fate has brought these four people, each of them in his or her own way an outsider, together on an island. They are representatives of a colonial power: Otello is the foreign state agent; Desdemona the daughter of a Venetian nobleman, who has deliberately set her cap against prevailing social conditions to marry the man she loves; Jago is the dissatisfied follower, Cassio the happy-go-lucky young nobleman, clueless on an overseas mission.

The violent storm that opens the opera may perhaps have put an end to the Turkish threat, but instead of that it has put the protagonists in a trap. They are forced to remain idle on the island in the scorching summer heat. There is no escape. The forced idleness proves fatal for these four people, who are used to taking their lives into their own hands - whether by commanding the Venetian armed forces or defying a father. The garrison, a colonial outpost, is cut off from the outside world; thus likewise from convention, and - increasingly - from any sense of reality. The alienation of these outsiders from one another is tightly interwoven with the increasing isolation of each individual. Doubt and suspicion grow, relationships begin to rot in the all-searing heat.

When the security the protagonists have built their lives on begins collapsing all around them, they find no further way to work effectively. Insecurity leads to mistrust and moral decay. By losing one another they lose themselves. The drama becomes more and more internalized. It gets abstract and expressionistic. Verdi's opening tempest rages just as turbulently in the heads of the characters as in the world around them. In the course of the opera the emotional and dramatic heat climbs. Only another storm can clear the air. When it finally does arrive, it will be too late for Otello and Desdemona.

English translation by Donald Arthur

© Bavarian State Opera

Giuseppe Verdi
Arrigo Boito

Otello in München

ML = Musikalische Leitung; IN = Inszenierung; BB =
Bühnenbild; KO = Kostüme;
O = Otello; J = Jago; C = Cassio; D = Desdemona

5. Februar 1888

Kgl. Hof- und Nationaltheater
ML Hermann Levi, IN Karl Brulliot,
BB Karl Lautenschläger, KO Joseph Flüggen;
Heinrich Vogl (O), Eugen Gura (J),
Max Mikorey (C), Pauline Schöller (D)

26. Februar 1902

Kgl. Hof- und Nationaltheater
ML Franz Fischer, IN Robert Müller;
Heinrich Knote (O), Richard Breitenfeld (J), Max
Mikorey (C), Else Breuer (D)

27. Februar 1913

Kgl. Hof- und Nationaltheater
ML Selmar Meyrowitz, IN Willi Wirk;
Heinrich Knote (O), Fritz Feinhals (J),
Jean Buysson (C), Louise Perard-Petzl (D)

20. Mai 1916

Kgl. Hof- und Nationaltheater
ML Bruno Walter, IN Willi Wirk,
BB Julius Klein; Otto Wolf (O),
Friedrich Brodersen (J), Karl Erb (C),
Charlotte Dahmen (D)

22. März 1931

ML Karl Elmendorff, IN Kurt Barré,
BB und KO Leo Pasetti; Adolf Fischer (O), Hans
Hermann Nissen (J), Walther
Carnuth (C), Maria Nezadal (D)

24. Februar 1946

ML Bertil Wetzelsberger, IN und BB
Günther Rennert, KO Liselotte Erler;
Franz Völker (O), Hans Hotter (J),
Franz Klarwein (C), Maud Cunitz (D)

9. Mai 1956

ML Ferenc Fricsay, IN Rudolf Hartmann,
BB Helmut Jürgens, KO Rosemarie Jakameit; Hans
Hopf (O), Josef Metternich (J), Richard Holm (C),
Annelies Kupper (D)

5. November 1965

ML Joseph Keilberth, IN Rudolf Hartmann, BB
Johannes Dreher nach Helmut Jürgens, KO Johannes
Dreher; Fritz Uhl (O),
Heinz Imdahl (J), Georg Paskuda (C),
Claire Watson (D)

31. Oktober 1977

ML Carlos Kleiber, IN John Neumeier,
BB und KO Jürgen Rose;
Carlo Cossutta (O), Piero Cappuccilli (J), Benito
Maresca (C), Julia Varady (D)



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Zubin Mehta was born in 1936 and grew up in a musical family in his native Bombay. After first studying medicine for two semesters he concentrated on music in Hans Swarowsky's conducting class at the Vienna academy.

Zubin Mehta won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition in 1958 and was also a prize-winner at the Koussevitzky Competition in Tanglewood. By his mid-twenties he had already conducted both the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras and retains close ties with both.

Zubin Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1967 becoming Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962, a post he retained until 1978. In 1969 he also became Music Adviser to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and was made Music Director of that orchestra in 1977. In 1981 he was made Music Director for life. Zubin Mehta has conducted nearly two thousand concert performances with this extraordinary ensemble on tours spanning five continents. In 1978 he became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic commencing a tenure lasting 13 years, the longest in the orchestra's history and, since 1985, he has been chief conductor of the Maggio Musicale in Florence.

Zubin Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor with Tosca in Montreal in 1964. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala Milan, and the opera houses of Montreal, Chicago and Florence as well as at the Salzburg Festival.

Zubin Mehta's list of awards and honours is extensive and includes the "Nikisch-Ring" from the Vienna Philharmonic as well as having been made, in 2001, an honorary member of the orchestra. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997. In 1999 Zubin Mehta was presented the "Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award" of the United Nations by Lea Rabin. In April 2001 President Chirac created him "Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur". In January 2004 the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra bestowed the title of "Honorary Conductor" on Zubin Mehta.

Zubin Mehta has been Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera and the Bavarian State Orchestra from 1998 to 2006. Quite apart from his commitments and responsibilities for the musical leadership of new productions, repertory performances and concerts associated with this position, he has also led the State Orchestra on two major European tours and the whole opera company on tours to Japan.

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