October 2015

Kristian Benedikt in Verdi's Otello, October 15 to 25, 2015


Music by Giuseppe Verdi.  Libretto by Arrigo Boito
Based on the tragedy Othello by William Shakespeare

October 15, 17, 23, 2015, at 8 pm
Wednesday, October 21, at 7 pm
Sunday, October 25, at 2:30 pm

The Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.

Pre-performance talk 1 hour before curtain.


Above: Scenes from Pacific Opera Victoria's production of Otello, with Kristian Benedikt, Todd Thomas, Leslie Ann Bradley, Adam Luther, Lynne McMurtry, Jeremy Bowes, Matthew Bruce, Alexander Dobson. Timothy Vernon conducts the Victoria Symphony; Giuseppe Pietraroia directs the Pacific Opera Chorus. With Director Glynis Leyshon, Set and Costume Designer Peter Hartwell, Lighting Designer Guy Simard, Projection Designer Jamie Nesbitt, and Fight Director Jacques Lemay.
Shine-ola Communications.


Cast and Creative Team

Resources and Links
Keynotes Online Newsletter
Study Guide (PDF)
Production Photos



  • Review Vancouver: Elizabeth Paterson reviews the opera for Review Vancouver.

    The orchestra, beautifully balanced under the baton of the inimitable Timothy Vernon ... constantly maintained the tension which lurks in every scene. Glynis Leyshon's spare and comprehensively intelligent stagecraft, of a piece with the musical direction, was beautifully supplemented by an abstract set coloured with rich Renaissance reds and a deep, emotive sea-rich aquamarine, courtesy of Peter Hartwell and Guy Simard.

  • A Compelling 'Otello' from Pacific Opera Victoria: Harvey De Roo reviews the opera for Vancouver Classical Music.

    The pacing began briskly, building momentum until Kristian Benedikt's stentorian tones rang authoritatively through the theatre. His is a powerful voice, put to good use throughout the opera ... Todd Thomas made a malevolent Iago ... genuinely frightening in his credo explaining the nature of his evil ... Leslie Ann Bradley made an outstanding Desdemona, with natural acting and a rich voice commanding her entire range ...
    Altogether, it was a rare treat to see Otello, and a gratifying one to be presented with a production of such quality.

  • David Lennam reviews the opera for CBC Radio.

    Glynis Leyshon's direction ensures that this Otello delivers on all counts ...
    Lithuanian tenor Benedikt dominates the title role ... The POV Chorus ... turns in its best work ever... Desdemona [is] extraordinarily sung by Canadian soprano Leslie Ann Bradley ... The biggest surprise was the gusto with which baritone Todd Thomas handled Iago's poisonous scheming ...
    What a great show! Go see it!
    The review begins half-way through the audio clip below (Click the arrow to play, then drag the orange bar just below it to 3 minutes, 23 seconds).

    If the player above doesn't work, listen on Soundcloud

  • Pacific Opera Victoria's Otello impresses from the start
    Adrian Chamberlain of the Times Colonist reviews the opera.

    Strong leads, confident direction and bold design have resulted in an invigorating revival of the opera many consider to be Verdi's greatest ...
    Benedikt is a young and dynamic Otello, singing with power and dramatic heft while still managing to mine the music's melodic beauty ...
    Leslie Ann Bradley is a fine Desdemona. Her rendition of the familiar Willow Song was lovely, perhaps even the night's high point ...
    Todd Thomas ... a superb Iago ... has a powerful, shaggy-browed stage presence.

  • CTV Preview: Adam Sawatsky shows scenes from Otello and interviews director Glynis Leyshon.
    After the 30-second ad finishes, the video begins. You'll find the preview at 4 minutes, 48 seconds into the video clip.

  • Tenor makes a natural Otello
    Adrian Chamberlain of the Times Colonist interviews Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedict who, at 40, has already sung the difficult title role of Otello some 80 times.

    As [TImothy] Vernon said: "There aren't many people in any generation who can really sing Otello, the role is so extremely demanding."

  • 400 years of Shakespeare something to sing about
    Preview by Isabela Sasaki of The Martlet includes an interview with Ian Rye, Director of Artistic Administration at POV.

    "Anybody who loves storytelling and music can come to the opera," said Rye. "The opera is where those arts unite, and together create a unique experience for the viewer. It's a meaningful pursuit for artists and audiences alike."

  • Victoria News: Pamela Roth talks wtih POV Artistic Director Timothy Vernon about the opening opera of POV's 2015/16 season.

    "When you get a score such as Otello, at the absolute peak of his (Verdi) creativity, that's an astonishing thing ... It's (opera) very special. You have to go in, sit down, open your ears, your heart, be ready for music and be ready to be engaged.



Man is the fool of fortune ...
Death is nothingness, Heaven an old wives' tale.

Otello is an illustrious general with an adoring wife, until Iago, driven by hatred and malign nihilism, sets out to destroy him and tear apart his marriage. With insinuation and lies, with perfect malevolence and false kindness, Iago plays on his general's vulnerability until Otello can trust nothing he sees or hears.

We want to cry out Stop!  But the tragedy unfolds inexorably, and a love born in hope spirals into violence and desolation.

In his monumental adaptation of Shakespeare's iconic play, Verdi distills poetry into music, creating a tragedy to make heaven weep.

Cast and Creative Team

With the Victoria Symphony and the Pacific Opera Chorus

A co-production with Opéra de Montréal

The opera is in Italian with English surtitles
Note: Haze, fog, and strobe effects will be used in the performances.

The performance is approximately 2 hours, 40 minutes, including one intermission



Act 1

The opera is set on Cyprus, an outpost of the Venetian empire, which has been under attack by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

The people of Cyprus watch and pray as Otello's ship fights its way to shore through a violent thunderstorm. When the ship finally makes it to port, battered, but safe, Otello comes ashore in triumph and announces that he has defeated the Turks in battle (Esultate! Rejoice!).

While everyone celebrates, Iago, bitter that Otello has promoted Cassio to Captain ahead of him, begins plotting to destroy both Otello and Cassio. Knowing that Roderigo is infatuated with Desdemona, Iago assures him that she will eventually tire of Otello. He then Insinuates that Cassio too has designs on Desdemona and enlists Roderigo to help orchestrate Cassio's downfall.

Iago goads Cassio into drinking too much (Inaffia l'ugola!), then has Roderigo pick a quarrel with him. As the situation turns violent, Montano intervenes and Cassio wounds him. A brawl ensues, and Iago sends Roderigo to sound the alarm.

Otello storms in (Abbasso...le spade!), demanding to know what has happened. Iago professes that he is utterly mystified. Otello's fury increases when he sees that Montano has been wounded and that the commotion has wakened Desdemona. He demotes Cassio, orders a gloating Iago to restore peace, and sends everyone home.

Finally, in the quiet of the night, Otello is alone with Desdemona (Già nella notte densa). Together they remember how Otello won her love with stories of his desert homeland, his life in exile, and his exploits as a warrior. He tells her, You loved me for the dangers I had passed, and I loved you that you did pity them. They pray that their love will never change and kiss tenderly.

Act 2

Iago commiserates with Cassio about his demotion and suggests he ask Desdemona to intercede with Otello. As Cassio goes to find Desdemona, Iago declares his belief that God is cruel, man is evil, and life ends with death and nothingness (Credo in un Dio crudel / I believe in a cruel God who created me in his image.).

Iago then watches as Cassio and Desdemona talk and, when Otello enters, mutters to himself, I like it not. Otello is instantly curious, but Iago evades his questions while hinting that Cassio is not to be trusted. As Otello presses him to speak plainly, Iago warns him, Beware, my lord, of jealousy!

A group of children and townspeople present Desdemona with flowers and wish her happiness. Otello watches lovingly, exclaiming, If she is false to me, then Heaven mocks itself!

Desdemona joins Otello and pleads with him to forgive Cassio. Otello impatiently puts her off, but she persists. When he complains of a headache, she tries to bind his head with her handkerchief, but he throws it down. Iago's wife Emilia picks up the handkerchief and, in a brief, angry exchange, Iago demands that she give it to him; when she refuses, he seizes it forcibly.

Otello sends everyone away, but Iago remains, watching Otello brood. Iago observes that his poison is working and makes plans to hide the handkerchief in Cassio's lodgings. He then approaches Otello, who lashes out at him for ruining his happiness. Iago offers to resign his commission, grumbling that it's dangerous to be honest. Otello relents, but insists that he needs proof of Desdemona's infidelity.

Iago confides that once he overheard Cassio talking in his sleep (Era la notte), dreaming passionately of Desdemona and murmuring that they needed to keep their love hidden. It was only a dream, he cautions, but there is other evidence: the previous day he saw Cassio carrying Desdemona's handkerchief.

That handkerchief, Otello tells him, was the first token of love he ever gave Desdemona. Enraged, Otello swears vengeance on the couple, and Iago eagerly pledges to help (Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro! Yes, by the marble heaven I swear! ).

Act 3

Iago promises proof of Cassio's betrayal: he will engage Cassio in conversation while Otello secretly observes.

As Iago goes to find Cassio, Desdemona enters and lovingly greets her husband (Dio ti giocondi). When she begins talking of Cassio, Otello asks her to bind his aching head with the handkerchief that he first gave her. When she explains that she doesn't have it, he orders her to fetch it, but she mistakes his insistence as a ploy to avoid the subject of Cassio and continues pressing for his reinstatement. Otello then accuses her of infidelity. Baffled, she asserts her innocence, but with a final cruel insult, he sends her away.

Exhausted and incoherent with rage and grief, Otello laments that he could have borne every possible torment save this, the loss of Desdemona's love (Dio! mi potevi). He then cries out that she must confess her crime and then die.

Iago returns and tells Otello to hide as he gossips with Cassio. The conversation is quite innocent: Cassio wonders if Desdemona has persuaded Otello to reinstate him, talks cheerfully about his sweetheart Bianca, and shows Iago the handkerchief that an unknown admirer has left in his lodging. But Iago stage-manages their discussion so that Otello catches only those words and gestures that appear to incriminate Cassio and Desdemona.

After Cassio leaves, Otello asks Iago how he should kill Desdemona. Iago suggests that Otello strangle her in the bed where she has sinned and offers to take care of Cassio himself. Otello promotes Iago to Captain.

Everyone except Cassio gathers to receive Lodovico, the Venetian ambassador. When Lodovico asks why Cassio is not present, Iago replies that Otello is angry with him and Desdemona expresses confidence that he'll soon be back in Otello's good graces. Otello mutters to her to stop babbling. When she apologizes, he moves to strike her but is stopped by Lodovico.

The ambassador has brought orders for Otello to return to Venice and for Cassio to replace him as governor of Cyprus. Otello assumes that Desdemona is weeping because she must leave Cassio and shocks the crowd by losing his temper and pushing her to the ground.

Meanwhile, Iago works furiously to salvage his plans, urging Otello to kill Desdemona that very night and promising to deal with Cassio himself. Seeing that Roderigo is mourning Desdemona's imminent departure, he points out that Otello would have to stay in Cyprus if something were to happen to Cassio. Roderigo agrees to kill Cassio.

Otello orders everyone to leave. Tormented by thoughts of Cassio and Desdemona, he faints as Iago watches in triumph.

Act 4

While preparing for bed, Desdemona sings the mournful Willow Song about a woman abandoned by her lover. As Emilia leaves for the night, Desdemona gives way to her terror, crying out and embracing her. Before going to sleep, Desdemona kneels and says an Ave Maria.

Otello enters, kisses Desdemona, and asks if she has prayed, adding that she should confess her sins, for he would not want to kill her soul. She tells him her only sin is loving him. He accuses her of loving Cassio, who, he says, is now dead. She begs him to let her live for just a little longer, but he strangles her.

As Emilia arrives with news that Cassio has killed Roderigo, the dying Desdemona softly calls out that she is innocent, but that Otello is not to blame. Otello tells Emilia he killed Desdemona because she was Cassio's mistress. Emilia calls him a fool for believing Iago and summons help. As the others arrive, the story comes out: Emilia and Cassio tell what they know of the handkerchief, and Montano reports that the dying Roderigo told him of Iago's plot. Iago flees. Otello goes to Desdemona (Niun mi tema), stabs himself and kisses her one last time before he dies.

Maureen Woodall


Resources and Links

Otello / Othello




Explore the Opera

Act 1: Desdemona (Leslie Ann Bradley) and Emilia (Lynne McMurtry)