Otello Budapest State Opera House

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January 2023

Opera in four acts in Italian, with Hungarian and English surtitles

Othello - Synopsis


Composed 1884-1886.
First performed February 5, 1887.
Libretto by Arrigo Boito (in Italian),
after Shakespeare.


A Summary of “Otello”


Act 1
In the late 15th century, on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, Otello, a general in the Venetian army, completely destroys the Turkish navy. Otello is an African black, and a Moor. 
Iago, Otello’s subordinate, holds a grudge against Otello, because Otello gives the position of deputy to Cassio who is Iago’s rival. Iago plies Cassio with drink, and Cassio makes a spectacle of himself. Otello dismisses Cassio from his post.

Act 2
Iago tells Cassio that he should ask Otello’s wife, Desdemona, about his reinstatement, because Otello is influenced by his wife. Conversely, Iago also tells Otello that he should suspect the close relationship between his wife and Cassio.

Act 3
In addition, Iago comes up with a cunning plan. He forces his wife Emilia, Desdemona’s maid, to steal one of Desdemona’s handkerchiefs. And Iago puts this handkerchief in the house of Cassio.
Otello sees Cassio holding Desdemona’s handkerchief in his hand. Otello has no doubt of his wife’s betrayal, and makes up his mind to kill her.

Act 4
That night, before she goes to bed, she prays. As she prays, she gets an ominous feeling something terrible is about to happen to her. Otello enters the room, and throttles her before she can beg for giveness.
Emilia rushes into the room, and tells Otello that Iago forced her to be a part in his devious plot, and everything is Iago’s deception. But she is too late.
Otello falls into despair of ever seeing his faithful wife again, and he kills himself with a short dagger.


Program and cast

Hungarian State Opera

The Opera House is not only one of the most significant art relic of Budapest, but the symbol of the Hungarian operatic tradition of more than three hundred years as well. The long-awaited moment in Hungarian opera life arrived on September 27, 1884, when, in the presence of Franz Joseph I. the Opera House was opened amid great pomp and ceremony. The event, however, erupted into a small scandal - the curious crowd broke into the entrance hall and overran the security guards in order to catch a glimpse of the splendid Palace on Sugar út. Designed by Mikós Ybl, a major figure of 19th century Hungarian architecture, the construction lived up to the highest expectations. Ornamentation included paintings and sculptures by leading figures of Hungarian art of the time: Károly Lotz, Bertalan Székely, Mór Than and Alajos Stróbl. The great bronze chandelier from Mainz and the stage machinery moda by the Asphaleia company of Vienna were both considered as cutting-edge technology at that time.


Many important artists were guests here including Gustav Mahler, the composer who was director in Budapest from 1887 to 1891. He founded the international prestige of the institution, performing Wagner operas as well as Magcagni’ Cavalleria Rusticana. The Hungarian State Opera has always maintained high professional standards, inviting international stars like Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Monserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, José Cura, Thomas Hampson and Juan Diego Flórez to perform on its stage. The Hungarian cast include outstanding and renowed artists like Éva Marton, Ilona Tokody, Andrea Rost, Dénes Gulyás, Attila Fekete and Gábor Bretz.

Attila Nagy
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