Welcome to the Otello Education Resources page!

Austin Opera opens its 2018–2019 season with one of opera’s most dramatically and vocally intense masterpieces: Verdi’s Otello.

As a crackling storm rolls into Cyprus, we are introduced to a trio of figures, each based on Shakespeare’s iconic characters: the victorious naval warrior Otello, his faithful wife Desdemona, and his trusted officer Iago. But soon after the rain subsides, the duplicitous Iago preys upon Otello’s insecurity and suspicion by hatching a plot to have Otello question Desdemona’s fidelity, unleashing a passionate tempest of gale force, with powerfully tragic results.

Starring in the title role is rising star tenor Issachah Savage, who captivated Austin Opera audiences as Radamès in Aida in 2015. Fresh off her appearance as Violetta in our spring 2018 production of La traviata, soprano Marina Costa-Jackson returns to sing the heartbreaking role of Desdemona. And Austin Opera favorite baritone Michael Chioldi returns for his fifth role in Austin as the treacherous and cunning Iago.

Presented as a festive staged concert event, this thoughtful tale of personal and political jealousy is a rarely performed masterwork that will leave Austin audiences breathless.

Austin Opera’s production will be sung in Italian, with English supertitles.
Production Run Time:
Part One – 90 minutes
Intermission – 25 minutes
Part Two – 60 minutes

Total Run Time: approximately 3 hours

The Access Opera: Otello dress rehearsal is scheduled for Thursday, November 8, 7:00 PM.  Registration for tickets to this event begins Wednesday, September 5, 2018.  Go to the Access Opera page to register!


NEW!  Still Life: Musical Instruments Lesson

This TEKS correlated ART lesson and PowerPoint support your students’ exploration of the instruments in the orchestra.  Recommended for Grades 5 & up, this Still Life activity is a wonderful way to extend opera learning through the artform of drawing.  The lesson is approachable for any teacher, but if you are not a Visual Arts instructor, share it with your colleagues who are and encourage them to collaborate in exploring the orchestra, an important component in an opera production.

Still Life: Musical Instruments Lesson

Still Life: Musical Instruments PowerPoint

Access Opera: Otello Curriculum

Access Opera: Otello PDF Lesson Materials

Access Opera: Otello PowerPoint

Use redemption code: Otello2018

Austin Opera’s Access Opera: Otello curriculum is an innovative multi-media based unit, complete with TEKS aligned lessons, activities, assessments and an Animated Listening Map. This curriculum is designed so you can teach Otello in the time frame that works best for you and your students. Designate an entire class period and share the complete lesson using the accompanying PowerPoint. Teach it in chunks.  Here is what that might look like:

  • Day 1 – Background (composer info, synopsis) and first listen of featured music selection
  • Day 2 – Listen a 2nd time, including suggested activities/assessments from the lesson
  • Day 3 & beyond – Listen to some of the alternate versions; try a new activity/assessment; explore SEL connection; Go over Audience Etiquette materials

About the Story

Otello story synopsis

Otello: In a Nutshell

From Shakespeare’s Othello to Verdi’s Otello

Otello Opera facts for kids from Kiddle

Otello on Wikipedia

Verdi’s Otello: A Shakespearean Inspiration

Othello to Otello – Why the spelling change?
The Verdi opera is set to an Italian adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy.  Since the letter “h” isn’t pronounced in Italian, the Italian spelling of the Moor’s name is “Otello”- no “h.” 

About Verdi’s Orchestra





Audio and Video Resources

“Gia nella note densa”
This duet is sung by the doomed lovers Otello and Desdemona in happier times. Although their end is tragic, this piece is filled with the joy of two lovers who found one another through hardship and turmoil. Overcome with passion for one another, the music ends with a moving kiss and one of opera’s most famous leitmotifs. Renée Fleming, soprano; Johan Botha, tenor; Metropolitan Opera 2012

“Si, pel ciel” Duet
The dramatic Act II finale duet featuring Jonas Kaufmann, tenor as Otello and Marco Vratogna, baritone as Iago.  This selection is featured in the Access Opera: Otello curriculum.

The duet between Otello and Desdemona at the end of Act I is the only love duet in all of Verdi’s operas between a husband and wife. It is not restrained or hurried – these lovers are not being kept apart and are not afraid of being caught. Verdi develops a serenely calm scene in which Otello and Desdemona, in an extended duet, express their unbridled love– a love that will soon be shattered. Otello is mature, yet impetuous. Desdemona is serene but passionate. From its opening line, “Già nella notte densa” (“Now in the dark night”), Verdi paints a scene of matrimonial bliss, culminating in the famous bacio or “kiss” motif. Here, in a Wagnerian style “Tristan” progression of unresolved chords, Otello gives his Desdemona a kiss and yet another.  This motif will play a significant role in Act IV, when Otello comes to kill her. – from The Metropolitan Opera

Jonas Kaufmann performs “Dio! Mi potevi scagliar”
Jonas Kaufmann, tenor, makes his debut in the role of Otello at the Royal Opera House in London, England, 2017.  This aria is sung in Act 3, after Desdemona responds that she has been faithful to Otello, when he accuses her of being with another man, a vicious idea that Iago has planted in his head.

Verdi’s Brilliantly Inappropriate “Ave Maria”

Maria Chiara sings “Ave Maria”

Leontyne Price sings “Ave Maria”
Leontyne Price, soprano, was the first African American to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Her voice has been described as “vibrant”, “soaring” and “a Price beyond Pearls.”

Maria Callas sings “Willow Song”
The opening of Act IV powerfully evokes melancholy. The Willow Song is remarkable for its intimate mood: its lyrical, at times almost improvisatory, vocal line, and delicate orchestration, in which woodwind instruments are prominent. Verdi deftly illustrates images from the song’s text, including a busy string figuration to depict the swirling stream by which the girl weeps, and flute flurries for the birds that fly to her side. Desdemona’s two passionate outbursts at the end of the song hint at how stoically she has been controlling her grief. The ensuing Ave Maria movingly depicts how Desdemona finds consolation in prayer. Its shimmering orchestration, beautifully simple melody and ethereal coda – with Desdemona soaring to a pianissimo high note – poignantly portray innocence and trust in a beneficent higher power: a welcome contrast to the mood of bitterness and sorrow the cruel Iago has created by poisoning Otello’s mind against Desdemona.   from The Royal Opera House

Why Verdi’s Otello is an ‘Everest’ for opera singers
The Royal Opera House shares insights into why Otello is one of the greatest, but most challenging operas of all time.

Insights into Otello with Jonas Kaufmann (The Royal Opera)
A conversation about the opera Otello with conductor Antonio Pappano and Jonas Kaufmann, tenor.

Additional Resources

Otello: All About Verdi, Boito (librettist), the Libretto, the Music and the Recordings

Otello Performance History

The Music of Otello

Verdi’s Otello Musical Highlight: “Willow Song” and “Ave Maria”
An article from The Royal Opera House

Otello Study Guide – Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Study Guide includes articles and activities especially appropriate for older students, that focus on the following topics:

  • The adaptation of the story in different artistic genres
  • Verdi’s musical depiction of the storm in the opera’s opening scene
  • The portrayal of race both in the opera and in its sources

Study Guide for Otello – Pittsburgh Opera
This guide includes a great chart that shows the major differences between Shakespeare’s Othello and Verdi’s Otello.

Study Guide for Otello – Opera Philadelphia
This guide includes a translation of the complete libretto for the opera.

Maria Callas on NPR
Maria Callas artist page – interviews, features and/or performances archived at NPR Music 

Leontyne Price, Legendary Diva, Is a Movie Star at 90
Leontyne Price steals the show in a new documentary “The Opera House.”

Leontyne Price at age 90: The Voice We Still Love to Talk About
A Great NPR story about Leontyne Price.