Verdi – Si, pel ciel from Act II of Otello (1887)

by Max Derrickson

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Si, pel ciel from Act II of Otello (1887)

Of the dozens of attempts by many composers to adapt Shakespeare to the opera hall, very few have had any success.  Verdi’s Otello is widely considered to be the best, not only because of the great composer’s polished experience in opera (among them his very successful MacBeth forty years earlier), but also because of the brilliant libretto created by the Italian poet and musician, Arrigo Boïto.  His heavily abridged adaptation of Shakespeare’s cherished masterwork is itself considered to be a great literary feat,
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A dramatic example of that pairing of geniuses occurs in Act II between Iago and Otello.  The plot of Shakespeare’s play remains virtually unchanged in the opera:  Otello, a Moor and a general in the mighty Venetian fleet, sails home to Cypresswith his wife, Desdemona.  Although unfalteringly faithful, she is a woman of unsurpassed beauty, a fact which leads Otello into a state of near-constant jealousy.  Iago is one of Otello’s first mates
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