On December 4th 1816 Otello, or the Moor of Venice by Gioachino Rossini was performed for the first time at the Teatro del Fondo, because of the temporary closure of the Teatro San Carlo due to a fire. This opera seria in three acts is the second in a series of nine operas composed for Naples,
The subject is taken from the successful play Othello, ou Le More de Venise by Jean-François Ducis, French translation and reduction of the homonymous tragedy by Shakespeare, staged in Paris in 1792 and from which Francesco Berio di Salsa derives his libretto focusing on the story of the calumniated girl who dies innocent.
The composer in that period has come back from some Roman failures (Torvaldo and Dorliska, Il barbiere di Siviglia and La gazzetta), but still decides to risk addressing a new more educated audience, already oriented towards the new pre- romantic phase and composes Otello in a hurry in just three weeks, holding the impresario Domenico Barbaja with bated breath until the last. Between delays and various unforeseen events, the show is a success and even the tragic ending desired by Rossini is welcomed, in which Otello shows Desdemona’s body on stage and commits suicide.
Despite the presence of three important tenor roles in the same show, Andrea Nozzari (Otello), Giuseppe Ciccimarra (Jago), Giovanni David, (Rodrigo), a woman is at the center of Rossini's Otello, the soprano Isabella Colbran (Desdemona), that with his passionate interpretation, aimed at giving all its tragic force to the subject , contributes to the success of the opera.
The character of Desdemona appears as the most contemporary figure, an unfortunate romantic heroine ante litteram, a suffering creature capable of expressing an intense tragic pathos. Many celebrated singers of the time, such as Giuditta Pasta, Maria Malibran, Teresa Stolz have contributed to the immense success of this character
Between 1816 and 1890 Rossini's Otello had been staged in 291 productions, plus numerous replicas, which make this title, along with Semiramide, the most represented opera seria by the Pesaro born composer (87 cities, 26 nations and sung in 8 languages) at least until Verdi’s drama of the same name marked its decline, until its rebirth after World War II.