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