|‘Otello’ returns to the Astra this October|
Otello, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s latest masterpieces, is Teatru Astra’s choice this year to kick off the next theatre season in October as it opens the twelfth edition of Festival Mediterranea, the programme of which is currently being finalised.
This year being the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the composer, the Astra’s Managing Committee could not but opt for one of the cavalli di battaglia of the celebrated genius, and a favourite with the local audience. The staging of this title, with a top-notch cast that is currently being contracted, marks a bitter-sweet return to the Astra as, incidentally, this work was the last production held days before the stage and auditorium were severely burnt in 2003.
As is now customary at Teatru Astra, high-quality artistes of international standing will be singing the main and challenging parts as the production will bring together excellent local and foreign talent, including professional singers of repute who will be singing for the first time in Malta.
The theatre will soon be able to announce the names of the main cast as contracts are currently being finalised with one of the world’s current top Moors and, separately, one of the most convincing Iagos around.
Otello marks yet another remarkable work by Giuseppe Verdi based on a Shakespeare play, subsequent to his Macbeth and composed after the composer had declared his intentions to retire permanently following the resounding success of his Aida. Otello was first performed at Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1887, and has been a world-wide hit ever since. In Malta it was first performed at the Teatro Reale in Valletta on 30 March 1897, just ten years after its première performance.
The four-act opera takes the audience back to the end of the 15th century in a tangle of love, passion, hatred, jealousy, deceit, innocence and, inevitably, death. With the omission of Shakespeare’s First Act, Arrigo Boito’s libretto is very loyal to the Bard’s plot, boiled down to the essential elements of the play while the music is considered as amongst Verdi’s most beautiful and expressive, with some of the composer’s richest characterisations.
The opera is deemed as one of the most demanding ones from the canon currently performed regularly worldwide, equally for the baritone as for the infamously difficult tenor role. In fact, Verdi had initially considered the part of Iago as being the main role. It is not a walk in the park for the soprano either, whose voice must match in strength and emotional intensity as that of the tenor and of the baritone.