Otello: The North Star

Otello: The North Star

Update: 2023-04-06
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As the one Black man in Shakespeare’s play and Verdi’s opera, Otello was not only tokenized, but villainized, criticized and minimized. With such an emphasis on Otello’s flaws, how is it that Desdemona fell in love?  

In her play “Desdemona,” Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and theater director Peter Sellers tell the story of the women of Otello. And in giving a long-awaited voice to Desdemona, uncover Otello’s connections to Blackness often overlooked or underplayed: a black handkerchief gifted down through generations, the roots of the “Willow” song, and a touching understanding of Desdemona as a child raised and nurtured by an African woman. 

This week on Every Voice with Terrance McKnight, the final installment of Verdi’s Otello, the African history and culture hinted at in the opera and uncovered and reimagined by the writer Toni Morrison, laying out the fabric of Desdemona’s nature. 

This episode is hosted by Terrance McKnight and produced by David Norville. The  Executive Producer is Tony Phillips. The Executive Producer for WQXR Podcasts is  Elizabeth Nonemaker. Our research team includes Ariel Elizabeth Davis, Pranathi Diwakar, Ian George, and Jasmine Ogiste. Sound design and engineering by Alan Goffinski. Music provided by the Livermore Valley Opera. Original music composed by Jeromy Thomas and Ashley Jackson. Special thanks to The Met archives.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov

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Otello: The North Star

Otello: The North Star

Thomas Hampson, Limmie Pulliam, Peter Sellars, Dr. Uzee Brown, Maribeth Diggle, Terrance McKnight