[roh-see-nee, raw-; It. raws-see-nee]
Rossini, Gioacchino Antonio, 1792-1868, Italian operatic composer, one of the great masters of the Italian opera buffa. His parents were both musicians, and he began his career in childhood as a singer. He received his first formal musical education at the Liceo Comunale of Bologna, where one of his early cantatas was performed. Rossini's first comic opera, La Cambiale de Matrimonio, was produced in Venice in 1810, and it was followed by a series of lively works, culminating in his masterpiece, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville, 1816). Based on the comedy by Beaumarchais, the opera resounds with Rossini's brilliant arias, ensemble numbers, and his famous crescendos. Among his many other operas are L'italiana in Algeri (1813), La Cenerentola (1817), and Semiramide (1823). In 1824, Rossini became the director of the Théâtre-Italien in Paris. After the production of his William Tell at the Paris Opéra in 1829, he stopped composing operas, and during the remaining 39 years of his life he wrote only songs, piano pieces, and a setting of the Stabat Mater (1842), in which his operatic style is still evident.

See biographies by Stendhal (1822, repr. 1982), F. Toye (1934, repr. 1987), and H. Weinstock (1968, 2d ed. 1987).

Otello is an opera in three acts by Gioacchino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Berio di Salsi, based on Shakespeare's play Othello.

Performance history

First performance: Teatro del Fondo, Naples, 4 December, 1816.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, December 4, 1816
(Conductor: - )
Otello tenor Andrea Nozzari
Desdemona soprano Isabella Colbran
Rodrigo tenor Giovanni David
Jago tenor Giuseppe Ciccimarra
Emilia mezzo-soprano Maria Manzi
Elmiro bass Michele Benedetti
The Doge of Venice tenor Gaetano Chizzola
Lucio tenor Nicola Mollo
A gondolier tenor Nicola Mollo


The opera deviates quite heavily from Shakespeare's original, not only in that it takes place in Venice and not on Cyprus, but also in that the whole dramatic conflict develops in a different manner. A recent Opera Rara CD of the opera even includes an alternative happy ending, a common practice with drama and opera at one time. The role of Jago is reduced to some degree and is much less diabolical as in the original or in Verdi's - much later - version. Nevertheless, Rossini's Otello is an important milestone in the development of opera as musical drama. It obviously provided Giuseppe Verdi with a benchmark for his own adaptations of Shakespeare for opera.

Related Works

Franz Liszt based the Canzone from the Années de Pèlerinage supplement Venezia e Napoli on the gondolier's song "Nessun Maggior Dolore" from this opera.

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