For our second program, the Merola Opera Program and the San Francisco Public Library continue our Merola Goes to the Movies series with a screening of Otello, directed by Franco Zeffirelli. This 1986 production features Placido Domingo as Otello, Katia Ricciarelli as Desdemona and Justino Diaz as Iago and runs 124 minutes.
In his autobiography Zeffirelli writes "the first rule of filmed opera is that the story should be universally understood." He felt it would be a disaster to try to "put over one of those convoluted opera stories." That is why he chose Otello as a subject since it was already well-known as Shakespeare's classic play Othello.
Otello is a stirring drama of love and jealousy, ambition and vengeance is set against the splendor of the 15th century Venetian Republic. It is the second of Verdi's three operas based on Shakespeare plays. Arrigo Boito, composer of the opera Mefistofele recently produced by the San Francisco Opera, wrote the libretto for Verdi's opera. Michael Rose's new book The Birth of An Opera has a chapter that traces the genesis of the opera and Boito's collaboration with Verdi.
The film is sung in Italian with English subtitles.
Otello will screen at 1:00 PM on Sunday, November 2, 2013 in the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library. All Library programs are free and open to the public.
The Birth of an Opera: Fifteen Masterpieces from Poppea to Wozzeck by Michael Rose (W.W. Norton, 2013).
Zeffirelli: The Autobiography of Franco Zeffirelli (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986).