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234th Season

Mariinsky II (New Theatre)

21 November
2023 | Tuesday
Conducted by Maestro Gergiev Stars of the Stars
Artists Credits
Mikhail Smirnov, Stage Director
World premiere: Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Premiere of this production: 03 Dec 2022

The performance has 1 intermission
Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes

Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Arrigo Boito, after William Shakespeare´s tragedy Othello, or The Moor of Venice

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Mikhail Smirnov
Set and Costume Designer: Wolf Münzner
Lighting Designer: Anton Nikolaev
Video designer: Vadim Dulenko
Principal Chorus Master: Konstantin Rylov
Musical Preparation: Alla Brosterman
Italian Language Coach: Maria Nikitina

On February 5, 1887, the "great old man", as the seventy-four-year-old Giuseppe Verdi was called in Italy, presented his new opera, Otello, on the stage of La Scala. This work was expected as never before: for a decade and a half the composer was silent, resisting the onslaught of entrepreneurs and publishers. The best Italian librettist of the time Arrigo Boito, conductor Franco Faccio and publisher Giulio Ricordi managed to convince him to take on a new opera. When it came to his adored Shakespeare, Verdi began to give up little by little. Othello moved slowly, but it was thanks to this slowness that a brilliant score was born. Never before had Verdi composed so calmly, freely and at ease, because earlier he had always been bound by agreements and contracts. Never before had he received a Shakespeare play in such a laconic, clear libretto presentation: for every act of the main characters - Othello, Iago and Desdemona - a clear motivation was found. And the accumulations - spiritual, personal, musical - of a long period of silence spilled onto paper in a completely new, unfamiliar way to Verdi himself. This is probably why the opera is distinguished by the ideal fusion of form, smoothly sliding, flowing from one episode to another, absolute intonational unity, melodic integrity enveloping the whole action, refined psychologism of the orchestral part, which revealed secret - not uttered in words - intentions. The evil sharpness of Iago's vocal language, the martyrdom of Othello's fortunes, the poetry radiated by Desdemona - all this Verdi succeeds with hitherto unprecedented perfection. Of course, both the composer himself, who parted with his offspring with such difficulty, and the audience, after the premiere, arranged an enthusiastic street greeting, understood: Othello is the highest point of the Verdi theater, a musical drama that came closest to both the idolized Verdi Shakespeare and full disclosure of his own powerful creative individuality.

Nadezhda Markaryan



A harbour. Evening. The triumphant arrival of Otello, the new governor, is interrupted by a sudden storm. The tempest has already taken the lives of dozens of sailors and townspeople while the sea continues to throw corpses and wrecked ships onto the shore. The lighthouse ceases to function. The townspeople look for Otello among the bodies – few believe it possible to survive such stormy seas...
Suddenly Otello?s voice can be heard above the panicked crowd. The people greet him in delight that he has survived.
The storm fades and the lighthouse is lit anew. Attempts are made to clear away the debris. Those who are drenched and shaken are given warm clothing, food and drink.
Iago, Otello?s comrade-in-arms and retainer, is among those overseeing the clearing-up process, though he is deeply envious of his patron. Iago cannot forgive Otello for appointing the young Cassio and not him to a high rank. In revenge, Iago plots to incite the Venetian Roderigo against Cassio, Roderigo being in love with Otello?s wife Desdemona. Iago convinces Roderigo that the handsome young Cassio is his rival.
Provoked by Iago, Roderigo quarrels with Cassio. In vain Montano, the island?s former governor, tries to pacify them – beside himself, Cassio beats him mercilessly.
Hearing raised voices, Otello comes from his house, followed by Desdemona. Otello punishes Cassio for his crime, stripping him of his military rank, and tells Iago to restore order.
Night. The deserted shore. Alone at last, Otello and Desdemona tenderly recall the past, caught up in the delight of being together. Affairs of State, disasters and bloodshed all cease to exist when they are alone together.


Morning. Otello?s new study, as yet unusable following his arrival. Iago and Cassio bring in their superior?s belongings. Widows of sailors lost in the storm are waiting in the ante-room.
Obsessed with his cunning plot, Iago assures Cassio that with Desdemona?s protection he can retrieve his lost honour and title: everyone knows that the new governor is hopelessly in love with his wife and will grant her every wish.
Desdemona herself appears: she is amused with Iago and his wife Emilia?s sons who are playing. As yet her marriage to Otello has not produced any children... Cassio approaches Desdemona and begins to speak. As if by chance, Iago draws Otello?s attention to them. Shamming anxiety he confidentially advises: "Temete, signor, la gelosia!"
Otello, though angry and disturbed, remains unshakable: Desdemona, whose beauty, grace and gentle nature are praised by the entire island, is incapable of treachery.
Desdemona turns to her husband, asking compassion for Cassio. Without realising it she thus aids Iago, fuelling Otello?s jealousy. Not knowing the cause of his wrath, Desdemona wishes to cool her husband?s forehead with her handkerchief. Otello wrenches the cloth from his wife?s hands in fury and throws it on the floor. Emilia picks it up to give to her mistress but Iago seizes the handkerchief from his wife. It will be of use to him later...
Desdemona and Emilia leave. Otello is anxious – he both believes and disbelieves the tortuous suspicions that are tearing at his soul. Farewell to everything – love and happiness, glory and life! In anger Otello throws himself on Iago and swears to destroy him if he has defamed Desdemona. In a pretence of despair, Iago is ready to submit proof – if he is forced to do so: once at night he heard Cassio say Desdemona?s name in his sleep and he has seen him with her handkerchief, a wedding present from Otello. Taking control of himself, Otello goes to the townspeople and relatives of those who died and makes an official speech to mark the day of mourning.


Daytime. The hall in the governor?s house has been prepared to bid farewell to the sailors lost in the storm, and the event is to be attended by the various ambassadors in Venice.
Otello is obsessed with the thought of his wife?s infidelity. Seeing Desdemona in the hall, Otello asks her to tie the handkerchief he gave her on their wedding day on his head. Unable to find the handkerchief and paying little attention to her husband?s request, Desdemona again begins to speak of Cassio. Otello is furious: he demands the handkerchief he gave her on their wedding day! In vain Desdemona assures him of her fidelity. Mad with jealousy, Otello drives her out. Alone, he cannot reconcile himself with the idea that he could lose his love: everything he has done and believed in will collapse.
Iago continues to weave his web of deceit: now he intends to convince Otello of his complete devotion, advising him to hide and carefully observe all that happens. Then, having summoned Cassio, Iago enters into an ambiguous conversation, subtly juggling with the names of two women – Desdemona and Bianca, Cassio?s beloved. Iago asks Cassio to show him the handkerchief that he himself has placed in his room. The serene Cassio admires the beautiful handkerchief...
Convinced of his wife?s treachery, Otello decides that he will kill her himself. He orders Iago to obtain poison, but the latter advises him to strangle Desdemona in bed. Iago himself undertakes to deal with Cassio.
The ambassadors arrive at the grandiose funeral ceremony for the sailors. Lodovico, one of the ambassadors, informs Otello that he has a new position and Cassio will be his successor. On hearing this Otello is enraged: a man he hates appointed to such an exalted position! The presence of Desdemona and her kind words about Cassio intensify the blow. Rudely insulting Desdemona, Otello demands that the guests leave the hall and falls senseless.
The people on the square chant "Behold the Lion of Venice".


Night. Otello and Desdemona?s bedroom. In the morning they are to leave the island. Desdemona is seized with dire premonitions. She sings an old, melancholic song about a poor girl who is abandoned by her lover and is transformed into a willow tree. In vain Emilia tries to soothe her mistress – despondent with gloomy thoughts, Desdemona bids her farewell and prays.
Otello appears. Unable to find the strength to carry out his plan, he attempts to make her admit to her sins – in vain Desdemona swears her innocence, in vain she begs for mercy. For the last time Otello takes his wife in his strong arms...
Emilia runs in: Cassio has just killed Roderigo who attacked him, provoked by Iago. Otello admits murdering his wife. Hearing Emilia?s scream, people run in. Before everyone, she exposes Iago – it was he who took the handkerchief from her in order to defame Desdemona. Otello kills himself so he can share his wife?s fate...

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1 Theatre Square
St. Petersburg
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St. Petersburg
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St. Petersburg

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