19 JUNE - 9 JULY

With Simon Keenlyside

Grange Park Opera is delighted to welcome one of the world’s most influential and prolific directors of opera, David Alden – winner of the prestigious South Bank Show Award (for his production of Britten’s Peter Grimes) and three Olivier Awards.

Verdi’s opera, based on Shakespeare’s play about the tragic Moorish general manipulated into a frenzy of paranoia by his sidekick, Iago, was an immediate success – Verdi had 20 curtain calls at the opening night.

The three leading roles – Otello, Desdemona and Iago – are among the most challenging Verdi ever created. Exciting Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones and Elizabeth Llewellyn make role debuts as Otello and Desdemona, but much of the interest will come in the baddie department, with GPO favourite Simon Keenlyside exploring his dark side as Iago.

It will be a night to remember.

An opera in four acts

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Music: Giuseppe Verdi

Libretto: Arrigo Boito

First performance: 5 February 1887, La Scala

UK première: 5 July 1889, Lyceum, Covent Garden

Supported by Lord & Lady Spencer

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Cast & Creatives

OTELLO, General of Venice  ∙ GWYN HUGHES JONES       Sponsor Michael & Isobel Holland
IAGO, Otello’s ensign ∙ SIMON KEENLYSIDE     Sponsor Ruth Markland
DESDEMONA, Otello’s wife ∙ ELIZABETH LLEWELLYN     Sponsor Ginny & Richard Salter
EMILIA, Iago’s wife ∙ OLIVIA RAY   Sponsor Jane Jenkins & Oscar Harrison-Hall
CASSIO, a Captain ∙ ELGAN LLŶR THOMAS     Sponsor Jackie & John Alexander
RODERIGO, GentlemanANTHONY FLAUM      Sponsor Francis & Amanda Norton
LODOVICO, AmbassadorMATTHEW BROOK  Sponsor Julian Hardwick
MONTANO, ex-Governor of Cyprus ALAN EWING

CONDUCTOR ∙ GIANLUCA MARCIANO     Sponsor Peter & Poppity Nutting



A seaport in Cyprus 

Act 1  

During a violent storm, Otello, the Governor of Cyprus and General of the Venetian forces, returns from a battle in which he has defeated the Turks. He is acclaimed as a hero.

Roderigo, a young Venetian gentleman, is in love with Otello’s new wife, Desdemona. Iago, Otello’s ensign, bears a grudge against Otello who has promoted his lieutenant, Cassio, to the rank of captain – a position which Iago believes should have been his.

Iago promises to help Roderigo win Desdemona.

The victory festivities begin and Iago proposes a toast to Otello and Desdemona’s marriage. Iago plans to create chaos and plies Cassio with drink. Cassio brawls with Montano, the ex–Governor of Cyprus and confusion spreads.

Otello bursts in. The disturbance has woken his new wife. He angrily strips Cassio of his rank.

Alone, Otello and Desdemona sing of their courtship, of Otello’s bravery in battle, and his dangerous and violent past.

They pray their love will be eternal.

Act 2 

Iago assures Cassio that he will soon win back his rank. It is Desdemona who must intercede with Otello on his behalf.

Alone, Iago voices his creed: he is driven, not by a desire for revenge, but by his belief in a cruel God who has created Man in his own image to do evil.

Cassio is speaking to Desdemona when Otello arrives, and seeds of suspicion are sown in his mind. He questions Iago who skirts around the facts with obvious discomfort arousing Otello’s suspicions further.

Iago warns Otello of the danger of jealousy.

Desdemona is serenaded by well–wishers. She talks to Otello about Cassio’s dismissal. Surprised by her husband’s irritability, she placates him, binding his aching head with her handkerchief. Otello throws it aside and Iago’s wife, Emilia, picks it up – innocently.

Desdemona begs Otello to forgive her for whatever it is that has upset him.

Iago takes the handkerchief from Emilia. He will plant it amongst Cassio’s possessions. The poison is at work.

Otello imagines Desdemona with Cassio; both his love and his glorious career are finished. Feigning sympathy, Iago tells him that he has overheard Cassio sleep–talking about his love for Desdemona. Roused to a rage, Otello demands proof.

Iago says he saw Cassio holding Desdemona’s handkerchief. Otello swears vengeance.

Act 3

Ambassadors from Venice arrive.

Iago again urges Otello to remain on guard and observe his wife with Cassio. Desdemona pleads with him once more to forgive Cassio. Feigning illness, Otello asks for the handkerchief. She cannot find it. He warns her it has the powers to bring bad luck if lost or given away. Desdemona assumes this is a ploy to deflect the question of Cassio’s reinstatement.

In a furious rage, Otello accuses Desdemona of being unfaithful. Her protestations of innocence fall on deaf ears.

Calling her a common whore, he violently rejects her.

Iago jokes with Cassio about his sweetheart, Bianca, Otello overhears the laughter but not their words. Cassio is mystified by the appearance of the handkerchief at his lodgings. Iago likens its fine weave to a spider’s web ensnaring Cassio’s heart.

Otello’s worst fears are confirmed. Desdemona must be killed. Otello rewards Iago by promoting him to the rank of captain.

The Venetian ambassadors, led by Lodovico, bring a decree from the Doge: Otello has been recalled to Venice, and Cassio will be Governor of Cyprus.

Otello publicly insults Desdemona. Iago quietly tells Otello he will arrange for Cassio to be murdered and enlists Roderigo.

Otello dismisses everyone and curses his wife.

Iago exults in his demonic triumph.


Act 4 

Emilia is helping Desdemona prepare for bed.

Desdemona sings an old song, the Song of the Willow, about a girl abandoned by her lover. She bids Emilia good-night, and prays to the Virgin.

Otello enters and kisses the sleeping Desdemona. As she wakes, he tells her she must repent of her sins before she dies: she is Cassio’s lover and gave him the handkerchief. Desdemona cries out for Cassio to testify to her innocence and Otello informs her that Cassio is dead. She begs to be allowed to live for a little longer.

Otello kills her.

Emilia is at the door with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Desdemona is still alive, gasping for her last breaths.

Emilia realises that Otello has murdered her as a result of Iago’s deceptions. She raises the alarm; the vile truth is discovered.

Otello mourns Desdemona and laments her beauty and goodness. He kills himself.

Performance dates

Sunday 19 June 5:45pm
Wednesday 22 June 5:45pm
Saturday 25 June 5:45pm
Thursday 30 June 5:45pm
Sunday 3 July 5:45pm
Wednesday 6 July 5:45pm
Saturday 9 July 5:45pm

Provisional running times

First Half: 5:45 – 7:10
Interval: 7:10 – 8:45
Second Half: 8:45 – 9:55

Booking dates

Pioneers & Singer Sponsors: Wednesday 6 Oct
Revels: Wednesday 20 Oct
Hippocrates: Wednesday 24 Nov
Archimedes: Wednesday 15 Dec
Plato: Wednesday 9 Feb
Public: Wednesday 9 Mar

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