The genesis of Verdi's Otello is a familiar episode in the history of Italian opera. The semiretired composer's reluctance to reenter the operatic fray, his gradual interest in Arrigo Boito's draft libretto, and the astonishing speed with which he composed the music have been the subject of both musicological and biographical study. Letters between librettist and composer detail the textual modifications that Boito made to accommodate Verdi's needs. Up until now, however, we have had few corresponding musical documents readily available to illustrate how Verdi grappled with the challenges of Boito's libretto. Beginning with his draft text, dispatched to Verdi in sections during the first weeks of November 1879, Boito was always willing to make changes to suit the composer's needs. For the next seven years, through face-to-face meetings, correspondence, and the occasional intervention of publisher Giulio Ricordi, Boito and Verdi continued to refine the Otello libretto, even after formal musical composition had begun.

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Spring 1996

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Copyright © 1996, University of California Press. This article first appeared in 19th-Century Music: 19:3 (1996), 213-230.

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