Fresh off the back of his charming survey of mid-century Australia in the hit film Ladies in Black, the legendary Bruce Beresford has turned his attentions to quite a different kettle of fish with Melbourne Opera’s new production of Otello. Not Verdi’s Otello, long regarded as one of the finest works in the entire operatic canon, but the bel canto extravaganza that is Rossini’s earlier, 1816 take on the story of Otello and Desdemona. And if you’re scratching your head, never fear, as this is the first time Australians will see a staged version of the work on our shores, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Rossini’s death.

Bruce Beresford in rehearsal for Otello. Photo © Robin Halls

It’s certainly existed on the edges of the repertoire, but recent bel canto revivalists have brought it closer to the centre. All opera seria by these 19th century masters are difficult to stage, and this Otellois no exception – it requires six, yes six Rossini tenors, a seemingly ludicrous ask when audiences would be lucky to behold one and a half adequate ones on any given night. And that’s not to mention the...

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