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Although Boito cut out almost the entire first act of the play and eliminated the character of Brabantio, Desdemona's father, he followed Shakespeare's story rather faithfully for the rest of the work. He wrote the words of Iago's 'Credo', himself, however, and wanted to call the opera Iago, but Verdi did not agree.
During rehearsals for the first performance, the composer was pleased with the baritone, Victor Maurel, but would have preferred a better actor than Francesco Tamagno as Otello. However, the première was a monumental success and Verdi took some twenty tumultuous curtain calls. Later, fans unhitched the horses from his carriage and used their own manpower to pull him to his hotel.
A scene from Act 1 of Los Angeles Opera's 'Otello'. Photo © 2008 Robert Millard
Some time after that, the composer wrote that he was sorry to finish Otello because he had enjoyed working on its characters. In 1893, Verdi and Boito would première the last of their collaborations, Falstaff.
Copyright © 2 March 2008
Maria Nockin, Arizona USA