I’ve previously written about this finale, but it’s so good that I thought I’d post another version of it to compliment the three posted in June 2018.
The great concertatos that fill Verdi’s operas return in a spectacular conclusion to Act 3 of Verdi’s Otello. Though Verdi’s great ensembles are glorious and unsurpassed, they had always troubled him as they bring the action a halt while everyone expresses their emotions.
He solved that problem by simultaneous having all the characters express sorrow, anger, and horror while still moving the story forward.
Lodovico has arrived on Cypress with an order recalling Otello to Venice and appointing Cassio as the new governor of the island. Emilia and Lodovico are concerned about Desdemona’s dire situation. Iago who was stunned by the recall which threatened to abort his plot to destroy Otello, tells the Moor to kill his wife as soon as possible while he will dispatch Cassio. Then Iago hints to Roderigo that he should kill Cassio. After ordering everyone to leave, Otello curses his wife. They then all leave, save Iago. He watches Otello faint as he is being hailed by an offstage throng- ‘Evviva Otello’ and “Gloria al Leon di Venezia’. Finally, amid all the shouts and fanfares, Iago looks down at the fallen Otello and exclaims. ‘Here is the lion’.
This concertato is the most complicated Verdi, or anyone for that matter, ever wrote. It is the magnificent high point of the tragedy. All that remains is for the unraveling of Iago’s plot, but only after Otello has murdered his wife and killed himself.
When Franco Zeffirelli filmed this opera, he omitted this concertato making excising the heart of Act 3. Placido Domingo who played the title role was so upset over this cut that he expressed his wish to film the opera again. He didn’t get another chance, but numerous videos of his onstage interpretation portrayals of Verdi,s most challenging tenor role have been preserved.
The finale to Act on the recording linked below was made 60 years ago. It features Leonie Rysanek as Desdemona, Jon Vickers as Otello, and Tito Gobbi as Iago. Both men were renowned for their respective roles. Rysanek gives a solid performance, but was better suited to the German repertory. The great conductor Tullio Serafin conducted in what is one of the finest recording of Verdi’s great opera yet made.