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The green-eyed monster, implanted so subtly by Iago in the mind of Othello, has taken deep root by the time of his encounter with Desdemona in Act 3 [watch and listen -- DVD 2 chapter 3, 3:20-5:00]. There is now the wretched business of the dropped handkerchief, discovered by Iago's wife and handed on by him to Cassio. Boito omits to record that it was given to Othello's mother by an Egyptian, who had woven magic in its web. Its loss becomes for Othello a terrible obsession, so that ruinous jealousy possesses his character and he reveals the fact that his military prowess rests on foundations easily rocked. The Moor of Venice is riven by fatal insecurity.

Desdemona (Krassimira Stoyanova) and Othello (José Cura) with members of the chorus in Act 3. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu
Desdemona (Krassimira Stoyanova) and Othello (José Cura) with members of the chorus in Act 3. DVD screenshot © 2006 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu

The cross is in smithereens, the pomp and circumstance of glorious war are long abjured, and Othello is prey to dark chromatic brooding [watch and listen -- DVD 2 chapter 5, 12:45-14:30]. Now though, he must face a deputation from Venice, announced by trumpets from the galley and echoed with fanfares from the castle battlements. This is a scene to some extent transported by Boito from Shakespeare's Act I. But Lodovico as Venetian ambassador has not only to congratulate Othello as apparently successful governor of Cyprus, with not a Turk in sight, but to witness also the Moor's insane reactions to Desdemona's innocent remarks, which madden him to the point of all but striking her.

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Copyright © 23 July 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK

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