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RossiniHis Life and Works$
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Richard Osborne

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181296

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181296.001.0001

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Otello and the Confrontation of Tragedy

Otello and the Confrontation of Tragedy

(p.237) Chapter Twenty-Seven Otello and the Confrontation of Tragedy

Richard Osborne

Oxford University Press

The cult of the “unhappy ending”, of operas which end in suicide or death, began to take a tentative hold on European musical life in Italy in the late 1780s. Why the phenomenon manifested itself in Italy is not clear; revolutionary France would have seemed a likelier breeding ground. In this respect, the selection of William Shakespeare’s Othello as the subject for Gioachino Rossini’s second opera for the San Carlo company is not as radical as it might appear. Nonetheless, the choice shows sophistication and ambition. As the century progressed, the great Shakespearian tragedies began to infiltrate the operatic repertory, but there was no such precedent in 1816. Even in England, where the actor Edmund Kean was beginning to revolutionise taste by restoring tragic endings, it was still the norm to play King Lear in Nahum Tate’s mawkish revision.

Keywords:   cult, operas, musical life, Italy, France, William Shakespeare, Othello, Gioachino Rossini, Edmund Kean, Nahum Tate

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