The Metropolitan Opera HD Live (2006–…): Season 10, Episode 2 - Verdi: Otello - full transcript

The Moorish general Othello is manipulated into thinking that his new wife Desdemona has been carrying on an affair with his lieutenant Michael Cassio when in reality it is all part of the scheme of a bitter ensign named Iago.

[ Singing in Italian ]

[ Singing in Italian ]

-Hello, I'm Eric Owens,
welcome to today's

live transmission of
Giuseppe Verdi's "Otello."

This is not the set --

it's the Las Vegas scenery for
the Met's "Rigoletto" --

another one of Verdi's operas

about being pushed beyond
the limit of human endurance.

But that's for
another broadcast day.

Today, we'll soon be in
the world of "Otello,"

Verdi's towering final tragedy
that some believe --

and I'm one of them --

even ups the ante on
the original Shakespeare.

At the age of 71, inspired by
the librettist Arrigo Boito,

Verdi came out of
self-imposed retirement

to compose it.

It has proven to be one of
the wisest late-career moves

in the history
of all opera.

The opera starts big,

with some of the most dramatic
storm music ever composed,

before narrowing its focus on
the three characters

whose fates are
inextricably connected --

the proud ruler, Otello, whose
world will soon teeter;

his beloved wife, Desdemona,

the pure and innocent victim
of Iago,

Otello's ambitious aide

who is the embodiment of
evil cunning.

Verdi placed extraordinary vocal
demands on these three roles

and, fortunately, we have three
remarkable opera singers

who are up to the challenge --

Latvian tenor
Aleksandrs Antonenko

is one of the leading Otellos
of the day;

new Bulgarian star soprano
Sonya Yoncheva

plays Desdemona;

and Serbian baritone
Zeljko Lucic

sings one of his
signature roles, Iago.

The dynamic maestro
Yannick Nezet-Seguin

presides over the action

in director Bartlett Sher's
new production.

The maestro is ready
to go to the pit --

here now is one of Verdi's
masterpieces, "Otello."

-Maestro to the pit, please.
Maestro to the pit.

[ Applause ]

A sail! A sail!

A banner!

It's the winged lion of Venice!

The lightning reveals our flag.

Hear the trumpet!

The cannon has sounded!

It's the general's ship!

She plunges...then rises!

I see her prow between the waves!

We can barely see her through the mist!

She appears in a flash of lightning!

Lightning! Thunder!

Whirlpools! A raging storm!

The waves pound. The winds roar.

Heaven and earth quake.

A grim, whirling phantom cleaves the air.

God shakes the turbulent sky
like a dark, billowing veil.

Smoke! Fire! The sea is like a cauldron!

The universe is trembling.

The north wind comes howling.

Titanic trumpets blare in the heavens.

Lord, save our ship from the storm
and the thundering sea!

Save our ship and the flag of Venice!

You rule destiny and all the spheres.

Calm the sea, and bring our ship safely to anchor.

Her mainsail has split!

Her bow will crash on that reef!


(Let the raging sea be Otello's tomb!)

She is safe!


Lower the boats!

All hands to the ropes!

They're in harbor. They've landed!

Get ready. The gangplank is down.

Rejoice, everyone!

The pride of the Turkish fleet
is at the bottom of the sea.

The victory belongs to us and to heaven.

Our might weakened the Turks,
and the storm vanquished them.

Long live Otello!

Victory! The enemy is defeated
and buried in the terrible depths.

Victory! Yes, our foes are destroyed
and buried in the raging sea.

Their grave will be the turbulent abyss of the sea.


The enemy is defeated! Destroyed!

The swirling abyss of the sea will be their grave.


At last the storm is passing.

Roderigo, what are you thinking of?

Of drowning myself....

Only a fool would die for a woman.

But I cannot win her, Iago.

Be wise.
Let time do your work.

The lovely Desdemona, whom you secretly adore...

...will soon loathe the kisses of that savage.

Good Roderigo, I am your true friend.

No one could serve you so well in your distress.

A woman's feeble marriage vow?

Hell and I can easily overcome that!

I swear the lady shall be yours.

Listen. Though I pretend to love him,
I hate the Moor.

And I have reason to hate him. Look there....

That fancy captain has usurped my rank.

I've earned that rank in a hundred battles.

But here Otello rules.

And my Moorish lord has made me...

...his lowly ensign!

But mark my words, Roderigo.

If I were the Moor...

...I would not want an Iago about me!

Just listen to me.

The victory bonfire leaps and blazes.

The night is banished by its brilliance.

Leaping, sparkling, crackling, and blazing....

Its shining glow touches every heart.

A lively group is drawn to bask in its light.

Young girls sing happy songs
as moths take their fiery flight.

The palm tree burns with the sycamore.

A bride sings with her faithful beloved.

Flames glow and a joyful chorus ignites the heavens.

The fire of joy burns swiftly.

Consumed as quickly as the fire of love!

Glowing, fading, flickering...

...wavering, the sparks dance.

Fire of joy....

The flames flicker and dim, then the last spark dies.

The fire of joy burns swiftly...

...consumed as quickly as the fire of love!

Glowing, fading, flickering, wavering,
the sparks dance.

The flames flicker and dim
until the last spark dies.

Roderigo, let's drink!

Join us, Captain!

No more for me.

Just a drop.

Everyone in Cyprus is celebrating.
It's a night to be merry.

My head is already spinning
from draining my cup.

Just one more drink.

To Otello and Desdemona's marriage.

She's the flower of this island.
Her radiance has won every heart.

And yet she is so modest.

Come, Iago, sing her praises.

I am nothing if not critical.

Her beauty exceeds any praise.

(Beware of this Cassio.)

(He's too ardent, too bold, too exuberant.)

(He's a seducer, and he'll get in your way.)

(When he's drunk, he's lost.
So make him drink.)

Here, boys, some wine!

Wet your whistle! Drink hard, drink long...

...before you lose both your glass and your song.

This nectar clouds my mind with a beautiful mist.

Taste this wondrous elixir.

Drink with me! Drink!

Drink this glorious nectar. Join us!

–(Another sip, he'll soon be drunk.)
–(Yes, he's getting tipsy.)

The world pulses like my heartbeat
when I've been drinking.

I defy destiny itself!

I'm vibrating like a lute.
Pleasure beckons to me.

Taste this wondrous elixir.

Drink with me!

Taste this glorious golden nectar.

Come and drink!

–(Yes, he'll soon be drunk.)
–(Yes, it's working.)

–Only cowards refuse a drink!
–Let everyone see what's in my soul!

–The sober have something to hide!
–I fear nothing, not even the truth!

(He's dead drunk.
Pick a quarrel with him. He's a hothead.)

(Roderigo, start a riot.
Disturb Otello's first night of love!)

(That thought spurs me on.)

Captain, the guard is waiting on the ramparts.

Let's go then!

What's this?

Every night, Cassio is in this state.

Otello will know of this.

Come, let's go.

You make me laugh!

Watch your back, scoundrel!

Drunken knave!

Scoundrel! You dare insult me?

Stop, Captain. I beg you!

Away, Montano, or I'll split your skull!

You're dead drunk!

(Run to the harbor and cry, "Mutiny!")

(Spread chaos and confusion.
Sound the alarm!)

Brothers, stop! This is an outrage!

Put down your swords!

What is happening here?

Am I among barbarians?

Have you turned into savages,
tearing one another to pieces?

Honest Iago, by the love you bear me, speak.

All here were good, courteous, merry friends.

Suddenly, some madness overcame them.

They drew swords and fell on one another.

I wish I had never been here to witness it.

Cassio, how could you so forget yourself?

Pardon...I cannot speak.


My blood is beginning to boil!

Even my sweet Desdemona
has been roused from her dreams.

Cassio, you are no longer my captain.

(What a triumph!)

Iago, take a squad of men and restore the peace.

Help Montano.

Everyone return to his own house.

I will not leave here until I see the ramparts empty.

Now in the dark of night
every sound has been silenced.

Now my heart's tumult
is calmed in our embrace.

Let war thunder.
Let the world be engulfed...

...if, after such terrible fury...

...comes this immense love.

My splendid warrior!

Such torments, so many sighs... many hopes have
led to these tender embraces.

How sweet it is to whisper together.

Do you remember?

You told me of your life in exile...

...of its fierce dangers and long-enduring pain.

I listened, my soul gripped with fear... heart filled with rapture.

I told of the clash of battle
and the valiant sieges...

...of the assault, when we clung to the wall like ivy
amidst the whistling arrows!

Then you led me to blazing deserts.

To the burning sands of your native land.

You told me of the torments you had suffered...

...and of your chains,
when you were sold into slavery.

Your tears ennobled my story.
Your lovely face trembled.

Your lips gave forth a world of sighs...

...and made of my shadowed life a glory, a paradise.

And I was blessed by the stars.

I saw the beauty of your spirit
shine from your face.

And you loved me for my misfortunes.

And I loved you for your compassion.

And I loved you for your misfortunes...

...and you loved me for my compassion.

You loved me....

You loved me for my compassion.

Let death come!

Let me die in the ecstasy of your embrace.

My soul feels such joy.

I fear I shall never again be granted
such a divine moment... the unknown future
that destiny holds for me.

May our love remain unchanged
through the changing years.

To your prayer,
let the heavenly powers answer "Amen."

May "Amen" be their answer.

Joy overwhelms me.

I am breathless with longing.

A kiss....


A kiss....

And another kiss.

The Pleiades are low in the heavens.

The hour is late.

Come. Venus is shining!

[ Applause ]

[ Orchestra playing ]

Don't torment yourself, Cassio.

Trust me. You'll soon embrace
your sweet mistress Bianca.

And you'll be captain again,
with your gold hilt and polished sword-belt.

You're joking with me.

Listen to what I say to you.

You know that Desdemona rules our ruler.

He lives for her alone.

Beg that gentle soul to intercede for you.

Then your pardon will be certain.

But how can I speak with her?

It's her habit to stroll here at noon with my wife.

Wait for her here.

This is the way to your salvation.

Now go....

Go! I already see your downfall.

Your demon spurs you on.

And your demon is me!

I am driven by an unrelenting God.
And in Him I truly believe.

I believe in a cruel God,
who created me in His own image.

And He has willed me to hate!

I was born from some vile seed.

Base was I born.

I am evil because I am a man.

I am driven by the primeval mire that formed me.

This is my faith!

I believe it with all my heart.

Whatever evil I think or do fulfills my destiny.

I believe a just man is only a mocking actor.

Everything about him is a lie,
his tears, kisses, glances...

...his sacrifices and his honor.

I believe man is the plaything of an unjust fate.

From the germ of the womb... the worm of the grave.

And after all this mockery comes death.

And then?

Death is nothingness!

And heaven is an old wives' tale!

Here she comes.

Cassio, this is your chance.

Look sharp, Desdemona is coming.

And so it begins.

He greets her...and draws near.

All that's needed is Otello.

Satan, help my cause!

They're already in conversation.

The lovely lady nods and smiles.

I need only one flash of that smile... drag Otello to his ruin.

Fortune is on my side.

Here's Otello. Now to work.

That disturbs me.

–What are you saying?

My lord...

...I was just talking to myself.

Was that Cassio, parting from my wife?

Cassio? No, he would not steal away
so guiltily, upon seeing you.

I do believe it was Cassio.

My lord....

What is it?

Did Cassio know Desdemona
when you were courting her?

Why do you ask such a question?

Just a foolish fear. Nothing malicious.

Speak your thoughts, Iago.

Did you confide in Cassio?

He often carried some gift from me to my bride.


Yes, he did.

Do you not think him honest?


What are you hiding in your heart?

What am I hiding in my heart, my lord?

"What am I hiding in my heart, my lord?"

By heaven, how you echo me!

As if you hide some monster
too terrible to reveal!

You mutter, "That disturbs me."

What disturbs you?

Then you mention Cassio, and you frown.

Speak, if you love me.

You know I love you.

Then speak, hide nothing.

Give the worst of thoughts the worst of words!

Even if you held my soul in your hand,
you could not know.

Beware, my lord, of jealousy.

It is a dark, blind, spiteful hydra.

It poisons itself with its own venom...

...and tears an open wound in its own breast.

Oh, terrible fortune!

No! Hollow suspicion is useless.

Before suspicion...inquiry.
After suspicion...proof.

And after proof, this is Otello's law... away at once with both love and jealousy!

Your words remove the seal from my lips.

I do not yet speak of proof.

Be watchful.

Often the most honest and noble do not see deceit.

Be on guard. Observe well what Desdemona says.

One word can restore faith, or confirm suspicion.

Observe her well.

When you look upon us, you warm our hearts.

When you walk among us, you spread joy.

We, your citizens, offer you flowers and song.

We offer you the sweet lily
that angels strew in heaven...

...which adorns the holy mantle
and robes of the Madonna.

To you, sweet lady, our pearls and coral...

...collected from the depths of the sea.

To you, Desdemona, we give these gifts...

...with all our hearts.

To you we offer our flowering harvest...

...showering blossoms before you.

April surrounds the fair bride,
and dew shimmers in sun.

When you look upon us, you warm our hearts.

When you walk among us, you spread joy.

We, your citizens, offer you flowers and song...

...from each of us, parents, brides, and children.

The heavens shine, the breeze dances,
and flowers perfume the air.

–Her song conquers my heart.
–(I'll bring discord to this tune.)

(If my Desdemona is false,
then heaven mocks itself.)

Yes, her song reassures me.

I wish to speak on behalf of one
who suffers at your displeasure.

And who is that?

–It is Cassio.
–Was he speaking to you just now?

He was indeed.
And his remorse inspires me to speak.

So sincere is his grief
that he is worthy of forgiveness.

So I am interceding for him.

Pardon him.

Not now.

I will not accept your refusal.

Pardon him.

Not now!

Why do you sound so troubled?

What sorrow grieves you?

My forehead is burning.

That tiresome ache will pass.

I will bandage you with this soft handkerchief.

I have no need of it!

You are distressed, my lord.

Leave me!

If I have unwittingly....

My husband, if I have offended you...

...give me your sweet word of forgiveness.

(Perhaps I do not understand
these subtle tricks of love.)

Give me that handkerchief, Emilia!

What are you plotting now, Iago?

(Perhaps it is because I am descending
into the valley of years.)

I know how wicked you can be.

(Perhaps she disdains my Moorish face.)

I shall not give it to you, Iago!

Iago, I am your wife, not your slave.

Iago, I foresee some unholy plot of yours.

Give me that handkerchief!

Let me cheer your heart
and soothe your distress.

(She is lost, and I am dishonored.)

(My golden dream of love has
been dragged into the mud.)

May God protect us from danger.

Give me your sweet word of forgiveness.

Leave me! I must be alone.

Silence, Emilia! Understand?

Desdemona, false!

With these threads,
I will weave the proof of her sin.

I'll hide this in Cassio's lodgings.

–What a hideous thought!
–(My poison is working.)

False to me? To me?

(Suffer and roar!)

Think no more about it.

You! Stay back! Leave me!

You have bound me to the cross!

More horrible than any betrayal
is the suspicion of betrayal!

Could I ever have imagined
her secret hours of lust?

Could I have foreseen it?

I knew no fear. I was happy.
I knew nothing yet.

I found no stain on the divine body I adored.

I found no sign of Cassio's
burning kisses on her lying lips.

And now....

Now and forevermore,
farewell, blessed memories.

Farewell the sublime, tranquil mind.

Farewell valiant troops.
Farewell victories.

Farewell flying arrows and faithful steeds.

Farewell the triumphant, royal banner
and reveille ringing in the morning.

The sounds and songs of battle, farewell.

This is the end of Otello's glory!

Peace, my lord.

Villain! Show me proof that Desdemona is impure.

Do not run. Nothing will save you.
I want sure and visible proof.

Or the wrath you awakened
will fall upon you like a thunderbolt!

Divine grace, defend me!

Heaven protect you.
I'll no longer be your ensign.

May the world be my witness,
to be honest is not safe.

No! Stay!

Perhaps you are honest.

I'd be better off a liar.

Heaven help me!

I think Desdemona is faithful...
and I think she is not.

I think you are honest...
and I think you are not.

I want proof. I want certainty!

Lord, calm yourself.

What certainty do you need?

To see them lying together, perhaps?

Death and damnation!

That would be difficult to arrange.

What if the certainty of this monstrous deed
forever eludes you?

But if reason is the guide to truth,
I have a conjecture so strong...

...that it should bring you the certainty you seek.


It was night. Cassio was sleeping.

I was close enough to hear him.

In a halting voice,
he spoke of his intimate desire.

His lips moved slowly, slowly.

He abandoned himself to his ardent dream.

And he said in a plaintive voice:

"Sweet Desdemona, let us conceal our love."

"Let us be cautious.
I am consumed by our ecstasy!"

His dream became even more passionate.

He seemed to kiss the image in his dream.

Then he said:

"I curse the fate that gave you to the Moor!"

Then his dream ended.

And he fell silent in blind oblivion.

Oh, monstrous guilt!

I only tell of a dream.

A dream that reveals a fact!

And dreams help verify other proofs.

How is that?

Have you seen sometimes in Desdemona's hand...

...a handkerchief embroidered with flowers,
finer than a veil?

I gave her that handkerchief,
my first token of love.

I saw that handkerchief yesterday.
I'm certain of it.

I saw it in the hand of Cassio!

Would that God gave him a thousand lives... is too poor for my revenge.

Iago, my heart has become ice.
My pitiful illusions have disappeared.

Now I exhale all my vain love to heaven.

The hydra grips me in its serpent's coils!

O blood, blood, blood!

I swear it by marble heaven!
By forked lightning!

By death and the murderous sea.

With rage and terrible force...

...I will reach out my hand to seek my revenge.

Do not rise yet!

Be my witness, sun that shines on me
and animates us all.

I solemnly dedicate to Otello's service
my heart, arm, and soul...

...even if his will is armed to bloody deeds!

Yes, we swear it by marble heaven!
By forked lightning!

By death and the murderous sea.

With rage and terrible force...

...I will reach out my hand to seek revenge.

O avenging God!

[ Applause ]

-In the second half, Otello's
world continues to crumble

as Iago tightens the noose

with Desdemona
as his helpless pawn.

Here now are Acts III and IV
of Verdi's tragedy.

[ Applause ]

A Venetian galley has just arrived in the harbor.

The ambassadors of Venice are now in Cyprus.

Very well.

Go on.

I'll bring Cassio here and lure him into gossiping.

You'll be hidden. Observe his manner,
words, quips, and gestures.

Be patient, or proof will evade you.

Here comes Desdemona.

Better pretend....

The handkerchief....

Go! If only I could forget it.

God keep you merry, my husband,
ruler of my heart.

Thank you, my lady.
Give me your ivory-white hand.

Your hand is so warm, so lovely.

It yet has felt no age and known no sorrow.

Still, there is a devil hiding inside there.

He lights up its ivory hue.

Yet it still assumes poses of prayer and piety.

With this hand, I gave you my heart.

Now I must speak to you again about Cassio.

My head is throbbing again.
Bind my forehead.


No, with the handkerchief I gave you.

I do not have it with me.

Desdemona, beware if you've lost it!

A powerful sorceress wove a charm into its threads.

And it holds a furious magic in it.

To lose it or give it away means disaster.

–Is this true?
–It is true!

You frighten me!

Why? Have you lost it? Fetch it!

I'll get it, presently.

No, at once!

This is only a pretense
to put off the matter of Cassio.

You're being clever.

My patience is at an end.
The handkerchief!

Cassio is your dear friend.

The handkerchief!

Pardon Cassio.

Why is there a threat in your voice?

–Look at me.
–How terrible!

Look in my face.
Tell me what you are!

Otello's faithful wife.

Swear it, and damn yourself!

–You must believe me faithful!
–I believe you false!

Run to your damnation.
Swear you are chaste.

I am chaste!

You damn yourself!

I am terrified by your threatening look.

There is a fury in your words.

I hear it, and do not understand it.

Look at me.

I open my very soul to you.

Search my shattered heart.

I cry out to heaven for you.

For you, I shed these scalding tears.

Look, my first tears....

The first tears sprung from grief.

If the devil saw you now,
he'd think you an angel, and renounce you.

Heaven knows I am faithful.

Hell knows you are not!

I ask only for justice, dear husband.

Desdemona, no more!

You weep? And you moan as if
your heart were breaking.

Am I the innocent cause of such grief?

What is my fault?

You ask that?

The blackest of crimes...

...written upon the white lily of your forehead.

Are you not a whore?

No, as I am a Christian!

I am not what that horrible word expresses!

Give me your ivory hand once again.

I would make amends.

I beg your pardon,
if you are not what I thought.

I took you for that cunning whore...

...who is the wife of Otello.

God, you might have tried me with another affliction.

With poverty.

With shame.

You might have reduced
my trophies of victory to rubble.

To a lie.

And I would have calmly borne that cruel cross.

And the suffering, and the disgrace.

I would have resigned myself to your will.

But this grief...this anguish!

My mirage has vanished,
there where I soothed my soul.

That sun is spent...that smile,
that ray of light by which I live...

...and which gives me joy.

That sun is spent...that smile,
that radiance which gives me life...

...which gives me joy.

Mercy, you sacred immortal,
with your rose-lipped laughter...

...cover your face with the grim mask of hell!

She shall confess her sin, and then die!

A confession! I need proof!

–Cassio is here!
–Here! Thank heaven!

What joy!

What horrible torment!

Take hold of yourself! Hide!

We're alone here.

Welcome, Captain.

That honorable title is not meant for me.

Take heart. Your cause is in such hands
that victory is certain.

I thought I'd find Desdemona here.

(He spoke her name!)

She would tell me where my pardon stands.

Wait for her.

Meanwhile, since you never tire of amorous follies...

...tell me about the lady who's in love with you.

What lady?

I mean, Bianca.

(He's smiling!)

Her flirting has captivated you.

–You make me laugh.
–He who wins, laughs.

In truth, he who laughs, wins!

(He's gloating over her!)

(His scorn is killing me!)

I'm already tired of her kisses and sighs...
love is fleeting.

You're already yearning for another beauty!

Have I guessed it?

(He's mocking me! Killing me!)

(God, calm my raging heart!)

You hit the mark. I confess it.

–Now listen....
–Speak softly. I'm listening.

Iago, you know where I live....

(Now he's telling him how and where and when!)

By an unknown hand....

(I can't make out his words!
If only I could hear.)

(How low I've fallen!)

I found a handkerchief....

How strange!

(Iago signals me to come closer.)

–Left anonymously?

I long to know whose it is.

(Otello's watching.)

Do you have it with you?

Look at it.

How lovely!

(Otello's listening closely.
Now I'll give him an earful.)

So in your house, the angels lose
their haloes and their handkerchiefs!

(That's it! That's hers!)

(Ruination and death!)

(Suffer, Otello!)

(All love and sorrow are spent.
Now nothing can move my soul.)

Your heart is tangled in this spider's web.

Don't admire it. Beware!
It traps as it enraptures.

This spider's web has entangled your heart.

Don't brood on it. Beware!
It traps as it enraptures.

It's an enchanting miracle of needle and thread.

Rays of light have been transformed into cloth.

Whiter and lighter than a snowflake.

Lighter than the clouds woven
from the breezes of heaven.

–Your heart is tangled....
–It's an enchanting miracle....

(I am betrayed! There is my proof.)

It's an enchanting miracle!


You admire it too much!


Beware! Beware!

[ Fanfare ]

The Venetian galley is signaling its arrival.


The castle's trumpets answer.

If you don't want to meet Otello here, leave quickly.

How shall I kill her?

You saw how he laughed?
You saw the handkerchief?

I saw everything!

[ Chorus singing in distance ]

She's a condemned woman.

See that I have poison tonight.

Not poison!

Better to suffocate her...

...there, in her bed, where she sinned.

Your justice pleases me.

As for Cassio, leave him to Iago.

Iago, from this moment, you are my captain!

My lord, I thank you.

The ambassadors have arrived.

But to avoid suspicion,
Desdemona should attend as well.

Yes, bring her here.

Long live the Lion of Saint Mark!

The Doge and the Senate salute the hero of Cyprus.

I bring you this message from the Doge.

I kiss the seal of His Majesty.

My lady, may heaven watch over you.

And may heaven heed your prayer.

My lady, how sad you seem.

Emilia, a dark cloud disturbs
Otello's mind and my fate.

Sir, I am glad to see you.

Iago, what news?

Why isn't Cassio here?

Otello is displeased with him.

I believe he'll return to favor.

Don't be so sure.

What do you mean?

He's reading, my lady.

Perhaps he may return to favor.

Iago, I hope so.

You know that I have
a true affection for Cassio.

Stop your chattering!

Forgive me, my lord.

You devil, be silent!

I cannot believe what I am seeing.

Summon Cassio!

Watch her when he arrives.

Poor woman!

So this is our hero?
Our noble warrior?

He is what he is.

Tell me what you mean.

It's best to remain silent on this matter.

(Here he comes. Iago, watch him!)

Gentlemen, a message from the Doge.

(You feign crying very well.)

He commands me to return to Venice.

He has chosen my successor in Cyprus.

It is the man who served under me.

It is Cassio.


The Doge's word is our law.

(See? The scoundrel doesn't seem pleased!)

The crew and the troops–

(Continue your weeping.)

The ships and the castle
I leave in the power of the new general.

Otello, comfort her, or her heart will break.

We will sail tomorrow.

On your knees and weep!

On the ground...yes, in the dust.

I lie stricken.

I weep.

My dying soul shudders.

It is left lifeless and frozen.

Smiles, hope, and kisses once lingered on my lips.

Now there is anguish on my face
and agony in my heart.

The sun, serene and brilliant...

...which brightens the sky and sea...

...cannot dry my bitter tears.

This innocent woman
has no blame in her heart.

There is no hatred in her.

She stifles her cry of pain within her grieving heart.

Smiles, hope, and kisses
once lingered on my lips.

(Otello, carry out your revenge at once – time flies.)

(Is your anger merely idle chatter? To the task!)

(I'll see that Cassio pays for his sins.)

–(You'll do away with him?)
–(I swear it.)

(You'll have news of his death tonight.)

I once smiled with hope,
but now anguish grips my heart.

(Roderigo, your beloved sails tomorrow.)

I once smiled with hope....

(You can still act, if you dare.)

(I'm listening, Iago.)

(The ship will sail at dawn.
Then Cassio will be General.)

(But if Cassio meets with some accident,
Otello must remain here.)

(I understand.)

(In the dead of night, I'll find Cassio.)

(The rest is up to you.)

(I'll be your sentry, Roderigo. To the hunt!)

(Iago, I've sold you my honor and soul!)

Away from Otello, all of you!

Some sorcery has robbed him of his reason.

Anyone who does not leave is my enemy.

My husband!

My soul....

I curse you!

But I cannot flee from myself.

Blood! O terrible thought....

"That disturbs me."

To see them lying together...the handkerchief.

My poison is working.

Such praise for his victories!

Soon their tributes will be silenced forever!

Now who can stop me
from crushing this valiant hero?

Glory to Otello,
the Lion of Venice!

Behold your "Lion"!

[ Applause ]

Was he calmer?

He seemed so.

He told me to go to bed and wait for him.

Lay my white bridal gown on my bed.

If I should die before you...

...shroud me in its veils.

Banish these thoughts.

I am so very sad.

My mother once had a poor maid.
She was lovely, and in love.

Her name was Barbara.

She loved a man who abandoned her.

She used to sing a song,
the Willow Song.

Tonight that song will not leave my mind.

Weeping, she sang on the lonely heath.

How the poor soul wept!

O willow, willow, willow.

There she sat, her head bowed upon her breast.

O willow, willow, willow.

Let us sing!

Let the weeping willow be my garland.

Hurry, Otello will join me soon.

The stream flowed past in the fields
as her broken heart moaned.

And from her eyes flowed another stream,
a wave of bitter tears.

O willow, willow, willow.

Let us sing!

Let the weeping willow be my garland.

The birds flew down
from their dark branches toward this sweet song.

She wept so much,
she moved the very stones to pity.

Take care of this ring.

Poor Barbara!

The story used to end with these simple words:

He was born for glory. And I, to love.

Listen! I hear a wailing. Quiet!

Who is knocking at the door?

It's the wind.

And I, to love him...

...and to die.

Emilia, farewell.

How my eyes burn!

A sign I will soon be weeping.

Good night.

Emilia, farewell!

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Elect art thou among brides and maidens.

Blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Pray for the one who kneels before you.

Pray for the sinner and the innocent.

For the oppressed, and for the oppressor...

...who also needs thy mercy.

Pray for the one who bows her head
before the outrages of fate.

Pray for us.

Pray for us always,
now and in the hour of death.

Hail Mary... the hour of death.


-Chi e la?



Have you prayed tonight?


If you have committed any sin
as yet unreconciled to heaven...

...ask forgiveness at once.


Be brief, I would not kill your soul.

You talk of killing?

Then God have mercy on me!

And you, too, have mercy on me.

Think on your sins.

My sin is love.

And for that, you die.

Because I love you?

You love Cassio!

No! I swear it.

The handkerchief I gave you in love, you gave him.

I saw it in his hand.

–I am guiltless.

Beware of perjury.
You have come to your deathbed!

–Not to die!
–To die now!

I do not love Cassio.
Send for him, let him speak.

He is silent forever.

He is dead?

I am lost! And he is betrayed!

You dare weep for him?

Otello, do not kill me!

You plead in vain.

Let me live more hour!

Let me say one last prayer!

It is too late!

Quiet as the grave.

[ Banging at door,
Emilia singing ]

Open the door!

Who is there? Who is knocking?

My lord, I must speak with you.

Emilia, what is it?

A foul murder!
Cassio has killed Roderigo!

Cassio lives!

Unjustly murdered....

I die innocent....

My God, who has done this?

No one...myself.

Commend me to my lord.

I die innocent.

She has lied. I killed her.


She was Cassio's whore! Ask Iago.

Fool! You believed Iago?

–You dare deny it?
–I don't fear you.


Otello has killed Desdemona!

What horror!

Iago, disprove this vile murderer.

Did you ever believe Desdemona false?


I did believe her so.

That handkerchief I gave to her,
she gave to Cassio.

O divine powers!

No! I'll reveal everything!

Keep quiet!

Iago tore the handkerchief from my hand by force.

And I found it in my chamber.

Before dying, Roderigo revealed Iago's villainy.

Deny these charges!

Seize him!

Are there no more thunderbolts in heaven?

Give me your sword.

Do not be afraid though you see me armed.

This is my journey's end.

O glory!

Otello is no more.

How pale you are... wan and silent....

And beautiful.

Faithful woman, you were
born under an evil star.

How pure as your chastity.

Your soul is now borne to heaven.


Dead! Dead!

I still have a weapon!

Before I killed you, my wife, I kissed you.

Now, as I am dying...

...and the shadow engulfs me....

A kiss....

One more kiss....

Yet another kiss....

[ Applause ]

-Aleksandrs, Zeljko, bravi,
I mean,

what a thrilling duet,
you can feel the tension,

the plot rising, and notch
by notch,

along with the music.

Throughout this opera,
how do you pace yourself

with all that drama?

-Uh, well, look, it's kind of,
uh, very easy to me --

because, uh, you know,

my second name is "Envy,"
in this piece,

we all have this in our
normal people,

but, you know,
during performances --

this is the last one
in this run,

in this role, so, uh,

you know, it's -- it was bigger
and bigger every time.

And we spent four or five --
five weeks

rehearsing all this,
you know,

and we did plenty of jealousy
already, both of us,

so, you know,
it's there.

So, it's there.

Now, Sasha -- the world of
"Otello" seems to be

collapsing around him,
thanks to Iago.

How do you both deal with these
shifts in the plot,

musically and dramatically?

-It actually involves
the collapsing we will see

in the third act, more.

Now, he prepared me for this,
in second act.

But actually,
your question for Zeljko,

where is our base in this,
in our duets,

we are, with Zeljko
for many years,

be colleagues, and we worked in
many different theaters

and did different roles,

and it's helped us
to work together.

-Now, tell us about
the rehearsal process

with Bart Sher and Yannick.

-Well, I really can say that,
um, uh,

I was more than happy, thrilled,
to work with both.

It's my first time
to work with Bartlett

and with Yannick, as well,

but, you know,
it couldn't be better.

Really, trust me.

-Now, Sacha, this is one of the
toughest roles in all of opera.

What convinced you to scale
these vocal heights

for the first time --
it was in 2008, yes?

-Yes, it was 2008, yes.

But I -- it wasn't like
sometimes today,

take the score
with two months before,

mighty new,

coming on the stage
with a new role --

it was work for two years
before I came --

came on the stage in 2008
in Salzburg,

and it was, in this case,

I so go deep inside
in this role,

musically, dramatically,

that during all my other

it follows me.

And I show what I can,

all my luggage,
what I --

got in this, my seven years
on the stage today here.

-Well, thank you both so much
for speaking with me,

and in bocca al lupo
for the second half.


[ Man singing ]

(I can't make out his words!
If only I could hear.)

(How low I've fallen!)

I found a handkerchief....

How strange!

(Iago signals me to come closer.)

–Left anonymously?

I long to know whose it is.

(Otello's watching.)

Do you have it with you?

Look at it.

-Yeah, so, this is --
this is our --

let's do -- "Mi, mi, mi re, mi
fa, di, di, dah, di, dah, dah."

-Nel segno hai colto.
Si lo confesso.

-Yes, no, but yes, this one.
-This one? Okay.

-No, no, yes.
-That one?

From you -- so,
right, right, so...

You hit the mark. I confess it.

No, no, it's just --
[ Sings ]

–Now listen....
–Speak softly. I'm listening.

It's -- more short.

Yeah, sorry. I was talking --

Because once you do --

It's just too -- yeah.

Especially from the distance.
Let's do the same.

So -- and one!

You hit the mark. I confess it.

–Now listen....
–Speak softly. I'm listening.

Iago, you know where I live....

(Now he's telling him how and where and when!)

By an unknown hand....

(I can't make out his words!
If only I could hear.)

(How low I've fallen!)

I found a handkerchief....

This is always good.

How strange!

(Iago signals me to come closer.)

–Left anonymously?

I long to know whose it is.

(Otello's watching.)

Do you have it with you?

Look at it.

How lovely!

(Otello's listening closely.
Now I'll give him an earful.)

So in your house, the angels lose
their haloes and their handkerchiefs!

(That's it! That's hers!)

(Ruination and death!)

(Suffer, Otello!)

(All love and sorrow are spent.
Now nothing can move my soul.)

Your heart is tangled in this spider's web.

Don't admire it. Beware!
It traps as it enraptures.

Yes, yes, good.

This is, this -- perfect,

because then you have a little
bit more just -- this --

You know --
[ Vocalizing ]

I think if you think this way,
but this was also great.

We led exactly to that tempo.

We should be fine.

-This will do?
-Good shape.

-Toi, toi, toi.

Okay, thanks Dan.

Thanks Dan.
-My pleasure.

-Thanks, Dan.
-Good job.

-See ya.
-And that was the --

the thing in act four.
-Ah, my, uh --

[ Singing in Italian ]

I thought, because she was
running, and so,

then I slowed down and I ended
up taking it

about two bars longer.

-No, it was just an aria
all of a sudden.

-It became an aria.
-It was a little slow.

-Yeah, it's Cassio's aria,
you know?

I couldn't help it.
-It's okay.

And usually it's fine,
it was the other time.

-Yeah, no, no, I was just --

And now, see, you're between
them, so --

Should I go rehearse
with the three boys.

Should I go do that?
Has it been?

-Yeah, yeah, please.
-Okay, we'll do it.

-Yeah, yeah, it's always good.

And am I giving you the cue,
okay, and the ahhhh, barely?

-Yes, it, it --
yes, no, no,

it's, it's, it's better.

-It's because you're so far.
-It was so far backstage,

I know, I know.
-I'm going to jump.

That's fine.

-Maestro, good to see you.
-Good to see you.

-welcome to our director,
Bartlett Sher.

-Hi there.
How are you?

-Gentlemen, so Maestro, what
were you just rehearsing?

-Yeah, we actually did a touch
up or a little warm-up of

the trio in act three, because
it's always

a very delicate scene,
and I don't -- no spoiler here,

so I won't tell you what's
happening also on the stage,

but it's, it's very ingenious
and very, very good, what Bart,

uh, came up with --
-They die! No...

-No, this is before they die.
This is before they die.

-It's before. It's actually, the
real scherzo of the piece

and because of this, we always
need to remember

so that it's so precise
and really tight.

-And so, what are
your impressions

of their performances so far,
I mean, it's,

it's such a --
-You know --

They're doing great.
-They're doing great.

I think everybody is at the
right place, at the right time,

and that also, psychologically,
I think everybody is just making

the great, the, the best they
can and the greatest music.

-Yeah, there's nothing like
hundreds of thousands of people

watching you to make you really,
you know,

focus and pay attention and,
you know?

-Now Bart, tell us about the
setting for this production.

-Ah, yeah, well we were inspired
by a quote of Boito's

which he was talking to Verdi,
and he said, um,

"If you put that chorus there,"

trying to talk him out of
putting a chorus there,

"you will put a fist through the
glass prison

we put our hero in."

So we decided to be
a little bit literal

and we built a glass prison.

-Excellent. So Maestro, there
are so many moving parts

in opera performances.

You have the orchestra,
the chorus, the soloists.

And you have to be
on top of it all.

I mean,
what are you listening for?

I mean are there, uh, moments
where you, you focus in,

that aren't obvious
to listeners?

Or are you just the big picture
all the time?

-Yeah, I think it's all about --

no, it's all about micro details
and micro decisions, you know?

If we want to really make
chamber music between the pit

and the stage, we have to be
always in anticipation

because listening is not only
just passive,

it's also taking chances,
taking risks.

And imagine that the singer will
land his note there,

and therefore,
I will land it there.

So, I'm not -- I'm as active
as I am passive, let's say.

So, this is a -- no, it's not
only the big picture.

I think it needs to be really
a thousand decisions at a time.

-Yeah, it's all the details,
and the acting's the same.

If the details are extremely
precise, then somehow,

they loosen up and they can be
really --

they can go for it a bit more.

-Thank you so much for joining
me, gentlemen.

-A great pleasure.

-Thank you.
My pleasure.

I'm joined by our Desdemona,
Sonya Yoncheva.

Hello, Sonya.
-Hi, good to see you.

-Oh, good to see you.
It's quite brave to debut

a new role on the Met stage,
as you've done with Desdemona.

Once you said yes, what were the
very first steps you took

towards learning the role?

-You know, my first steps with
her was really

to understand her, because I
really wanted to

get to know this girl.

-Yeah, of course.

And then, I tried to not think
about it so much.

-Sure! Absolutely.
-You know?

You just go for it.

-Now you're the latest in
the long line of sopranos

who've had great successes in
this role at the Met.

There is an incredible
history there.

And so, how do you make the role
your own,

with that history
in mind?

Well, I try to believe that
Desdemona is not a victim.

I tried to believe that she's
a strong woman,

Italian noble beauty,

who has all these feelings
in her, you know?

She loves Otello
and she dares to say it.

-It's courageous.

-It's wonderful.
Now in the final act,

the spotlight falls on you
for the "Willow Song,"

and "Ave Maria,"
which --

they're such poignant moments
in the drama.

Can you discuss your approach to
this -- this scene, coming up?

-It's such an intimate moment,
you know, because Desdemona,

I think she used to do this
every night, praying to God,

but this time, it's special
because she's going to die

and she knows it.

She knows that Otello will come,

and she says it, actually,
to Emelia.

-She's kind of giving herself
her last rites, I guess.

-Exactly. Exactly.

-So you've often spoken
admiringly about

Yannick Nezet-Seguin.

Now tell about working with --
tell us about working with him.

-Well, he's so fantastic,
first of all.

He's so young.

He is a young spirit and he
brings so much fresh air

into the opera.

-That's fantastic.
-And he, he shares this with us.

-Excellent. Well, Sonya, thank
you so much.

Toi, toi, toi for the final act.
-Thank you.