The Tragedy Of Otello: A layperson’s view of racial politics in 21st Century opera

An excellent article from Daniel York about ENO’s up and coming White Othello

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 by Daniel York

The English National Opera have recently announced that the role of Otello in their upcoming production of Verdi’s opera of the same name, which is based on Shakespeare’s Othello, will be played by the renowned Australian tenor, Stuart Skelton. Othello is of course Shakespeare’s famous (and in many ways infamous) “black” character. A “Moorish general”, sometimes described in the text as “tawny” but to whom barely a page of Shakespeare’s play goes by without at least some reference to his skin colour.

Johan Botha in the title role of Puccini's "Otello."at the MetJohan Botha in the title role of Puccini’s “ the Met

According to several opera buffs on my Twitter feed and various Facebook conversations, Verdi though was less interested in Otello’s race. If I’m honest my knowledge of opera is scant but nevertheless the “Moorish general”(as described in the dramatis personae) is first referred to by the piece’s villain Iago as “a…

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