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by Giuseppe Verdi

Cast - May 19, June 15, 16, 23:

Cast - June 3:

Center Stage Chorus and Orchestra will participate in all productions.

Dates & Locations

  • May 19, 2006, 8 pm - debut of CSO at the Majestic Theater, Gettysburg, PA. For tickets to this performance, please call the box office at 717-337-8200 or visit
  • June 3, 2006, 8 pm - debut of CSO at Mt. Gretna Playhouse, Mt. Gretna, PA. Tickets to this performance are available at the door and are $20 for adults and $5 for students
  • June 15,16, 2006, 8 pm - Camp Hill United Methodist Church. There will be an optional dinner offered at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church the night of June 16th in combination with the performance. The combination ticket is $32 for adults, $13 students. Please call the church office at 737-5631 to make reservations for the dinner/ show combo.The regular price for June 15,16
    performance only is $ 20 adults and $5 students. Tickets are available at the door.
  • June 23, 2006, 8:00 pm - Pullo Family Performing Arts
    (1031 Edgecomb Ave. on the Penn State York Campus, York PA). For tickets to this performance, please call the box office at: 717-505-8900 or online at or call tool free: 866-468-7619.

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Turkey is threatening the supremacy of the Venetian state in the Mediterranean and has launched an attack against the Venetian-held island of Cyprus. The Duke of Venice has sent out a fleet under Otello, a brilliant general, who is also governor of Cyprus.

ACT I. In the midst of a violent storm , a group of people wait for news of Otello’s ship, which is feared lost in the storm. Cassio, Montano and Roderigo are among the crowd looking expectantly toward the sea. When Otello finally comes ashore, he announces the great victory of his forces over the Turks and then enters his castle followed by Cassio and Montano. In the following scene, Iago talks with Roderigo about Desdemona, Otello’s wife (with whom Roderigo is madly in love) and about Cassio whom Iago hates because Otello made him his lieutenant while making Iago his ensign, a much lower position. For this reason he also hates Otello. When Cassio returns, Iago encourages him to drink because he knows that Cassio easily becomes drunk and in a drunken state he is also easily angered and violent. Iago’s plan succeeds, and Cassio wounds Montano. When Otello enters and discovers what has happened, he removes Cassio from his service. Desdemona enters, and Otello dismisses everyone city. Left alone Otello and Desdemona reminisce about their first meetings and about falling in love. They are overcome with joy, and arm in arm they return to the castle.

ACT II. Iago and Cassio converse about Desdemona and the part that she might play in restoring Cassio to his former position. When Cassio leaves to await Desdemona, Iago
muses on his philosophy of life: if there is a god, he is a cruel god; life is most dominated by death; pity, love, unselfishness, and honor are only falsehoods; and life is a joke that always ends in death. When he sees Desdemona and Emilia, her companion and Iago’s wife, he sends Cassio to them.. At the same time Otello enters the scene, and Iago begins furthering his plan to destroy Otello through jealousy. He makes a number of comments about Desdemona and Cassio and about their former friendship in Venice—arousing Otello’s curiosity. When Otello finally tells Iago that he will believe nothing without absolute proof, Iago is quick to agree with him that yes there must be proof. However, he warns Otello that he must watch closely so that his faith may be restored or his suspicions confirmed. A group of people enter to offer Desdemona flowers and gifts.When they leave, her first words to Otello concern restoring Cassio to his rightful position. Otello attempts to silence her, but she presses on until he tells her that he is not well. She offers to bind his head with a handkerchief, but he throws it to the ground and Emilia retrieves it. At this point begins a quartet in which Desdemona begs Otello’ forgiveness for upsetting him, Otello voices his strong suspicions about Desdemona and Cassio, Iago forces Emilia to give him the handkerchief, and Emilia expresses her fear that her husband has evil plans that somehow include using the handkerchief. After Desdemona and Emilia leave, Iago admonishes Otello to forget any suspicions that he might have, but Otello blames him for ever creating the suspicions. Iago cleverly attempts to soothe Otello’s anger, which, of course, only angers Otello more. When Otello again demands proof, Iago tells him that once when he slept with Cassio, Cassio had a dream and in his sleep and talked about the love that he and Desdemona shared. He further asks about the handkerchief (Otello’s first gift to Desdemona) and claims to have seen that handkerchief in Cassio’s hand. The dream and the handkerchief inflame Otello, and he cries out for vengeance. Iago joins him in an oath to avenge this dishonor and destroy those who have wronged Otello.

ACT III. Otello and Iago discuss what has occurred to this point, and Iago informs Otello that he has plans to meet with Cassio shortly. When Desdemona enters, Iago leaves, but reminds Otello of the missing handkerchief. The scene that follows is one of great dramtic irony. Desdemona again asks Otelllo to reinstate Cassio, and Otello attempts to trap her into confessing her love for Cassio. When he asks to use her handkerchief, the one she produces is, of course, not the one stolen by Iago. Otello warns her that the loss of that handkerchief would bring her great woe. He then openly accuses her of infidelity and refuses to accept her pleas of innocence, even when she falls to her knees to describe the purity of her love for him. He rudely sends her away, and then, totally destroyed, he describes his heartbroken state and the complete loss of all his illusions. Iago returns and tells Otello to hide while he converses with Cassio. In the scene that follows, everything that Iago and Cassio discuss ( Cassio’s affair with Bianca, a woman of the streets; the handkerchief that Cassio discovered in his rooms; the meaninglessness of Cassio’s affair with Bianca, including their laughter about it) all seem to the distraught Otello as being references to Desdemona and her affair with Cassio. When Cassio leaves, Otello emerges and asks Iago how he should murder Desdemona. They are interrupted by the entrance of people who have come to greet Lodovico, an ambassador from Venice. Desdemona, Emilia, Cassio and Roderigo also enter the scene. Lodovico gives Otello a scroll that he has brought from Venice. Otello reads it aloud to the assembly, revealing that he has been recalled to Venice and that his place as governor of Cyprus is to be taken by Cassio. Desdemona’s innocent comments infuriate Otello, and to everyone’s horror, he throws her to the floor. Desdemona’s mourns the loss of Otello’s love while those assembled describe their disbelief that noble Otello could treat his wife as he has. Finally, in great rage he orders everyone to leave and screams his curse on Desdemona. Alone with Iago, Otello is overcome by convulsions as he cries out for blood. When he falls fainting to the floor, Iago goes to him and contemptuously points to him as he sneers, “Behold the Lion of Venice!”

ACT IV. In her bedchamber, Desdemona talks with Emilia about what has happened. In her sadness she remembers a song that Barbara, her mother’s maid, often sang to her which she now sings for Emilia. The mournful song describes Barbara’s great love for a man who eventually betrayed and deserted her After she bids good night to Emilia, Desdemona kneels before a statue of the Virgin Mary praying for Her intercessions now and at the hour of death. Shortly after she lies down on her bed, Otello enters. He warns Desdemona to think on her sins for he would not wish to kill her soul. The terrified Desdemona begs for mercy and strongly denies his accusations that she and Cassio are in love and have betrayed him. Deaf to her cries, he smothers her. Emilia knocks at the door and rushes in to announce that Cassio has killed Roderigo but that Cassio himself still lives. The dying Desdemona tells Emilia that she has killed herself but that she dies innocent of any sins against Otello, who tells Emilia that Desdemona lies because he has killed her. Responding to Emilia’s cries for help, Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico enter. Emilia accuses Iago of perfidy, which he denies, but she describes his theft of the handkerchief, and Lodovico states that before he died, Roderigo confessed his part in the plot with Iago to destroy Cassio and Otello. Iago rushes from the scene, leaving Otello to fully realize the terrible truth of what he has done. He takes out a dagger and thrusts it into his chest: “I kissed thee ere I killed thee; no way but this, killing myself, to die upon a kiss!”

Notes on the Composer and the Opera

In the entire history of opera, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) remains something of a phenomenon! His total operatic output ( twenty-six operas in published scores, 1839-1893 ) is all the more remarkable because seventeen of them remain in the standard repertory of the world’s opera houses to this day. AIDA holds the record for total number of performances of any opera at the Metropolitan Opera. One will always find his operas among those being performed throughout a company’s season as well as during the countless summer festivals. Indeed, he and his operas prove that nothing succeeds like success! Next in line to Verdi would probably be Puccini, but, of course, Puccini did not write twenty-six operas—unfortunately! Music critics frequently carp about Verdi’s “organ-grinder” accompaniments in his early operas, but they tend to ignore the fact that even in those early operas there are remarkably imaginative orchestrations!

Verdi most admired two writers: William Shakespeare and Allessandro Manzoni, for whom he wrote the REQUIEM. His third opera MACBETH (1842) is based upon Shakespeare’s tragedy and remains a fascinating opera musically, even though the libretto leaves much to be desired! Following AIDA Verdi wrote no operas between 1871 and 1886, even though he did make extensive and very meaningful revisions in three of his previous operas. When Arrigo Boito (a composer in his own right) came to him with a libretto based upon Shakespeare’s OTHELLO, Verdi was quickly won over by the brilliance of the libretto. It would seem from their memoirs that all composers (except those who wrote their own) were constantly dealing with inferior librettos! Anyone familiar with Shakespeare’s tragedy and with Boito’s libretto cannot help realizing , as Verdi did, how remarkable the libretto is. In comparing them, one immediately realizes that Boito has totally eliminated the first act of Shakespeare’s tragedy, except for a few pertinent lines and references. Time constraints very much affect just how lengthy a libretto for an opera can be. In OTELLO what is eliminated from Shakespeare’s text is more than made up for by the power of Verdi’s music. OTELLO introduces us to a new Verdi. No longer do we have the set pieces joined by recitative (whether they admitted it or not, all composers were influenced to some degree by the Wagner music dramas); there are no stops and starts.The dramatic action and the music are intricately joined, and the movement is on-going! Obviously, in his later years, Verdi changed his mind about his firm belief that there was Italian opera and there was German opera—and that never the twain would meet! In his final two operas he would give us “ the best of both worlds”!

Five years after the first performance of OTELLO, Boito again approached Verdi with a libretto based upon the works of Shakespeare. However, this time Verdi was not so easily convinced. He was an old man in ill health, and he feared that he would never live to complete the opera. But he did finally agree and gave to the world of opera perhaps his greatest masterpiece, FALSTAFF, his last opera. The score brims with sparkle and joy and light and fun and humor—this from a man haunted by age and infirmity, ill health, and fears of death!! Verdi remains in music a pure example of genius against all odds!!!


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