This week - Act IV The final tragic act, where Otello murders his innocent wife before Iago’s malicious plot is revealed and Otello commits suicide. In this episode the theme of darkness and light in the music is explored and Jonas Kaufmann speaks about Verdi’s mastery of the final scenes which can even elicit empathy for the broken Otello. Unfamiliar with the story in Act 4? Desdemona says her prayers and prepares for bed. Soon Otello enters and wakes her with a kiss then announces he will kill her due to her infidelity. Frightened and distraught Desdemona again affirms her innocence but a furious Otello strangles his wife without mercy. Her maid Emilia appears with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo and soon Iago’s evil conspiracy is revealed. Otello, stunned, realizes the grievous mistake he has made. Broken, he stabs himself with a dagger and dies with a final kiss for Desdemona. The studio recording of Otello - with Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano (appearing by kind permission of Warner Classics) conducting the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia - is available on Sony Classical
Poor Desdemona! Hear how her innocent pleading for Cassio in act three produces a special tension for the listener. And why Otello’s third act aria is the centerpiece of everything, the catalyst for all that is to follow. Unfamiliar with the storyline? Iago’s intrigue develops as he promises Otello he’ll have further proof of his wife's infidelity. Soon after Desdemona approaches Otello and again broaches the cause of Cassio, Otello pretends again to have a headache and demands to see the missing handkerchief, which he had once given her as a present. When she cannot produce it, he sharply insults her. Alone he broods despairingly before deciding she must confess her sin and die. Iago returns with Cassio, and cunningly leads their conversation such, that the eavesdropping Otello is convinced they are discussing Cassio’s affair with Desdemona. When Cassio mentions an unknown admirer’s gift and produces the missing handkerchief - which was planted in his room by Iago - Otello is shocked and swears that he will strangle his wife in her “bed of sin”. A Venetian delegation arrives and announces Otello’s recall home while appointing Cassio the new governor of Cyprus. Otello bursts with rage and insults Desdemona in front of everyone and finally collapses. Meanwhile the Cypriots are praising Otello as the “Lion of Venice”, Iago maliciously says: “Behold the Lion!” The studio recording of Otello - with Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano (appearing by kind permission of Warner Classics) conducting the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia - is available on Sony Classical
This week - Act II The second act sees Iago unleash his evil plan. What qualities does the singer need to make Iago so convincing? What is it like to record these emotionally demanding scenes, without an audience to perform to? Need a refresher on the action in Act 2? Iago counsels Cassio to beg Desdemona to intercede for him with her husband, to secure his reinstatement. Iago, his plot underway, proclaims his satanic Credo. Otello’s suspicions rise when Desdemona appeals to him on Cassio’s behalf. Desdemona offers Otello a handkerchief, that he once gave her, when he complains about a headache, which he throws to the ground. Emilia, Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maidservant, picks it up and Iago forcibly takes it from her as the women leave. Iago sets about inflaming Otello to a frenzy of jealousy by inventing a story of how Cassio had spoken of Desdemona in his dreams, and how he saw her handkerchief in Cassio’s hand. Otello is now convinced of his wife’s infidelity. The two men join in a vow to punish Cassio and Desdemona. The studio recording of Otello - with Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano (appearing by kind permission of Warner Classics) conducting the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia - is available on Sony Classical
This week – ACT 1. What is it like for the tenor to stand in the wings, awaiting his triumphant yet utmost demanding entrance scene, while the storm music rages on stage? Jonas Kaufmann explains how thrilling and overwhelming these opening phrases can be for the tenor! Antonio Pappano explains the challenges of drawing the dramatic line convincingly across time, even when the scenes are not recorded in chronological order. Plus much more! Unfamiliar with the storyline of Otello? The opera takes place in a seaport of Cyprus, late 15th century when the island was under Venetian control. Act 1 plays out over one stormy night, as the Cypriots await the return of their victorious governor - the Moor Otello - and his fleet. His ensign Iago who secretly hates Otello for passing him over for promotion, is plotting against him by helping the young Venetian Roderigo to win over Otello’s new wife, Desdemona. Via his devious plot, Iago gets Cassio drunk and provokes a fight between him and Roderigo, with Cassio attacking the former governor Montano. Otello appears to restore order and admonishes his soldiers for their behavior. When he realizes that Desdemona has also been caught up in the disturbances, he revokes Cassio’s recent promotion. The act ends with a tender love scene between the reunited Otello and Desdemona. The studio recording of Otello - with Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano (appearing by kind permission of Warner Classics) conducting the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia - is available on Sony Classical
Let tenor Jonas Kaufmann, conductor Antonio Pappano and journalist Thomas Voigt take you on a journey of discovery into the heart of one of Verdi’s greatest and most thrilling operas – Otello. Through personal insights and anecdotes, the trio explore, one act at a time, what it is like to perform and record Verdi’s masterpiece based on the Shakespearean tragedy. What is it like for the tenor to stand in the wings, awaiting his triumphant yet utmost demanding entrance scene, while the storm music rages on stage? How do you keep the spontaneity and truthfulness of a live performance, when you record the opera in a studio setting? Why does Otello’s wife Desdemona keep inadvertently inciting his jealousy leading to tragic consequences? Marvel at the beauty and power of Verdi’s music as Jonas explains how he believes the listener comes away with compassion for the ill-fated Otello at the end of the Opera. Ever since Jonas Kaufmann sung the secondary tenor role of Cassio in his American debut in 2001, he had dreamed of one day singing the “Mount Everest” of tenor roles. Finally that day came in June 2017 when he performed his first Otello at the Royal Opera House London with Antonio Pappano conducting. Two years later in the summer of 2019 they joined forces again to record the legendary role with the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale de Santa Cecilia in Rome. The studio recording of Otello is available on Sony Classical https://jonaskaufmann.lnk.to/Otello Antonio Pappano appears by kind permission of Warner Classics.