The Lion of Venice

Mario Del Monaco - Otello
Based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare, Verdi's Otello, to a libretto by Arrigo Boito had it's premiere on February 5, 1887.  It had been a long time in between operas at this stage of Verdi's career, Aida having premiered sixteen years before.

To this listener it contains some of his most strikingly beautiful music, not to mention dramatic.  Otello has one of the most touching, melancholy love duets ever written for example, and the deaths of both lovers are set to music of heart rending sadness.

There have been and still are, some great exponents of the title role, Ramon Vinay, Jon Vickers, Placido Domingo for example and most notably in recent times Jose Cura and Johan Botha.
Original Album Art

For me however, Otello will always be associated with Mario Del Monaco, famous for the role through the 50's and 60's.  It's a role he was born for, he was even buried in his costume when the time came for the great man to be laid to rest.  He recorded the role twice for Decca in stereo, both with Renata Tebaldi as Desdemona and Aldo Protti as Iago.  The Karajan version of 1961, Del Monaco's second, remains a classic to this day.

As part of the Bicentennary celebrations in honour of Giuseppe Verdi, the West Australian Opera will be performing Otello for the first time in Perth, in early 2014.  It's a co-production with Cape Town Opera, West Australian Opera, Opera Queensland, NBR New Zealand Opera, State Opera of South Australia and Victorian Opera and premiere's for the first time in Cape Town on April 4, 2013, travelling to Australia later in the year.  I'm looking forward to it immensely.

While doing some digging this morning I discovered the video below; a film version of the love duet with Mario Del Monaco and Gabriella Tucci from Tokyo, February 4, 1959.  The sound is in excellent condition, but don't let the enthusiastic prompter and equally enthusiastic Japanese subtitles put you off, this is a rare treasure to accompany his two brilliant recordings with Renata Tebaldi.