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Update: 16 July 2021

We’re saddened to advise that all performances of Aida, Attila and Otello will not be going ahead this July and August due to the evolving COVID-19 situation and the NSW Government’s extended stay-at-home orders.

Each production is being postponed to a future season, so audiences will have an opportunity to see these wonderful works on stage. Ticket holders will be contacted.

Venue

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney

Language

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Running time

Approximately 2 hours & 40 minutes, including interval.

Good or evil. Life or death.

A flawed hero. An innocent woman. A masterful villain.

Verdi takes the best bits of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works to create a taut, vivid romantic tragedy.

From the almighty storm to Desdemona’s impossibly beautiful Willow Song, the emotional music compounds the tension and coming tragedy.

Verdi’s score demands three outstanding voices, Shakespeare’s story demands they take take you on a dramatic journey. Yonghoon Lee is a remarkable singer-actor, debuting in the role of Otello, against the incomparable Karah Son making her long awaited debut as Desdemona. Marco Vratogna is world-renowned for his chilling Iago. Young conducting sensation Andrea Battistoni conducts.

Harry Kupfer’s timeless production explores all the action on a precarious, monumental staircase that dominates the stage. Yan Tax’s costumes would be at home on the most elegant runway.

Cast & Creative

Conductor
Director
Revival Director
Set Designer
Costume Designer
Lighting Designer
Toby Sewell
Assistant Director
Otello
Desdemona
Iago
Cassio
Emilia
Lodovico
Richard Anderson
Roderigo
Montano
Herald
Andrew Williams

Opera Australia Orchestra & Opera Australia Chorus

Cheat Sheet: Otello

Shakespeare and Verdi meet in the middle of a masterpiece.

What happens in the story? Who was the composer? What should I expect from the music? Here’s everything you need to know…

Read the Cheat Sheet

Enjoy dinner before the opera

Overture Dining at Sydney Opera House

Allow us to make your dinner reservation for you: at Overture Dining in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre. You’ll be served a themed three-course menu for just $75.

See the menu
Covid Safe logo

Keeping you safe at the theatre

COVID Safety at Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House and its food and beverage venues are registered as COVID Safe businesses with the NSW Government. To ensure a safe and comfortable environment for everyone, the Opera House has made some changes to the way it operates.

Read our plan

Otello at Arts Centre Melbourne (2008)

Photo: Jeff Busby

Otello at Sydney Opera House (2014)

Photo: Branco Gaica

Otello at Sydney Opera House (2014)

Photo: Branco Gaica

Otello at Sydney Opera House (2014)

Photo: Branco Gaica

Synopsis

Act I

Cyprus, late 15th century.

Cypriots watch anxiously from the shore as a fierce storm batters the Venetian fleet sent to defend their island from the invading Turks. The Moor Otello, a Venetian general and governor of Cyprus, lands his flagship safely in the port and announces the destruction of the Turkish fleet.

Iago, Otello’s ensign, confers with the wealthy Roderigo, who is in love with Desdemona, a Venetian beauty recently married to Otello. Promising to help him, Iago assures Roderigo that Desdemona will soon tire of her husband. He reveals his hatred for Otello, who passed him over for advancement, promoting Cassio instead.

While the citizens celebrate the governor’s victory and his safe return home, Iago proposes a toast. Cassio declines to drink, but Iago argues he cannot refuse to salute Otello’s new wife. Cassio consents and grows tipsy as Iago provokes Roderigo to get into a fight with Cassio. Montano, the former governor, tries to separate the two, but Cassio attacks him as well. Otello appears from the castle to restore order, furious about his soldiers’ behavior. When he sees Desdemona disturbed by the commotion, he takes away Cassio’s recent promotion and commands everyone to leave.

Act II

Iago advises Cassio to present his case to Desdemona. He argues that her influence on the general will certainly get Cassio reinstated. As soon as Cassio is out of sight, Iago declares his belief that a cruel God created man wicked and that life has no meaning. He watches as Cassio approaches Desdemona in the garden. When Otello enters, the lieutenant makes casual remarks about Desdemona’s fidelity. Enchanted by his wife’s beauty, Otello greets her lovingly, but when she brings up the question of Cassio’s demotion, he is angered and complains of a headache. She offers a handkerchief to cool his forehead, but he throws it to the ground. Her attendant Emilia, who is Iago’s wife, picks it up.

As Desdemona tries to calm Otello, Iago seizes the handkerchief from Emilia. Otello asks to be alone and everybody leaves, except for Iago, who remains to observe Otello’s growing suspicion. To fan the flames, he invents a story of how Cassio spoke of Desdemona in his sleep; he mentions that he saw her handkerchief in Cassio’s hand. Exploding with rage and jealousy, Otello swears vengeance, and Iago joins in the oath.

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