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First staged in Naples in 1816, seventy years before Verdi’s very different treatment of the same subject, Rossini’s Otello, based on Berio di Salsa’s play rather than that of Shakespeare, makes full use of no fewer than three lead tenors.
In the 19th century the third act won particular praise for the Gondolier’s Song (Nessun maggior dolore) and for the Willow Song (Assisa a’ pie d’un salice), which features some of the composer’s most passionate writing for soprano (Desdemona). The opera concludes with the dramatic and ironic revelation of Jago’s villainy, the forgiveness offered to Otello and his final suicide.
Verdi himself considered Rossini’s Otello a masterpiece
Gioachino Rossini: Otello, ossia Il moro di Venezia
Act I: Sinfonia
Act I: Viva Otello (Choir)
Act I: Recitative: Vincemmo, o prodi (Otello, Doge, Jago, Rodrigo)
Act I: Cavatina: Ah si, per voi gia sento (Otello, Jago, Choir)
Act II: Scene and Duet: Che feci! … (Otello, Jago)
Act II: Duet: Non m'inganno: al mio rivale (Otello, Jago)
Act II: Recitative: E a tanto giunger puote (Otello, Rodrigo)
Act II: Terzetto: Ah! vieni, nel tuo sangue vendichero le offese (Rodrigo, Otello, Desdemona)
Act II: Che fiero punto e questo (Rodrigo, Otello, Desdemona)
Act II: Recitative: Desdemona! Che veggo! (Emilia, Desdemona)
Act II: Finale: Che smania! ahime! (Desdemona, Maidens, Confidants, Elmiro)
Act III: Scene, Air, Duet and Finale III: Ah!… Dagli affanni oppressa (Desdemona, Emilia)
Act III: Danzone del gondiero: Nessun maggior dolore (Gondoliere, Desdemona, Emilia)
Act III: Canzone del Salice: Assisa a pie d'un salice (Desdemona)
Act III: M'ascolta … (Desdemona, Emilia)
Act III: Scene: Eccomi giunto inosservato, e solo (Otello, Desdemona)
Act III: Duet: Non arrestare il colpo … (Desdemona, Otello)
“Pratt is every bit as fine as von Stade, the voice free, flexible and finely-schooled, her engagement with the role fairly complete, both in the high drama of Act 2 where the opera finally embraces tragedy and in the Willow Song, Prayer and death scene in the superb third act.”
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