Verdi's penultimate opera represents his first new work for the stage after a nearly sixteen-year hiatus. As battles raged over the future of Italian opera-whether it should remain rooted in song or follow foreign trends that assign a greater role to the orchestra-Giulio Ricordi and Boito patiently lured Verdi back into the fray. Boito's libretto, an ingenious and at times eccentric adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, inspired the composer to a highly personal fusion of tradition and innovation. At its premiere Otello was widely hailed as a masterpiece, an emphatic and fundamentally Italian answer to the debate over music and drama. Although it remains both admired and respected, Otello tends not to be performed frequently, owing to the difficulty of casting its vocally demanding title role.
Copyright © 2013 Cambridge University Press. This article first appeared in The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia.
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Fairtile, Linda B. "Otello." In The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia, edited by Roberta Montemorra Marvin, 317-27. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.