Release date: 10/26/2009

San Francisco Opera Presents Verdi's Otello Starring Johan Botha, November 8-December 2, War Memorial Opera House

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SAN FRANCISCO (October 26, 2009)—San Francisco Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s masterwork Otello, opening November 8 with six subsequent performances through December 2 at the War Memorial Opera House. Starring in the title role is South African tenor Johan Botha alongside Bulgarian soprano Zvetelina Vassileva as Desdemona and Italian baritone Marco Vratogna as Iago. This revival of the Lyric Opera of Chicago production by Sir Peter Hall is directed by Stephen Barlow and conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti.
Widely considered to be one of today’s preeminent interpreters of the role, Johan Botha makes his San Francisco Opera debut as the flawed warrior Otello, a role he has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and Frankfurt Opera. Praised by the New York Times for his “effortless power and clarion tone,” Botha has gained worldwide critical acclaim performing with opera companies such as the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala and with symphony orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 
Zvetelina Vassileva, who made her U.S. opera debut at San Francisco Opera in 1994 as Leonora in Il Trovatore and most recently appeared with the Company as Drusilla in L'Incoronazione di Poppea, sings the role of Otello’s faithful and falsely accused wife Desdemona. Vassileva has previously performed the role at Covent Garden and in her native Bulgaria at Sofia’s Bulgarian National Opera. Marco Vratogna makes his San Francisco Opera debut as the manipulative soldier Iago, a role he has performed at Frankfurt Opera, Hamburg Opera and Stuttgart State Opera.
Tenor Beau Gibson, a Merola Opera Program alumnus who made his Company debut in this season’s Salome, sings the role of Otello’s captain, Cassio. Appearing as Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid Emilia is mezzo-soprano and Adler Fellow Renée Tatum, who also sang in this season’s production of Salome. American bass Eric Halfvarson, who has performed more than fifteen roles with San Francisco Opera, sings Lodovico.
San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Luisotti’s “flexible and apt” interpretation of Verdi’s Il Trovatore was praised by the New York Times for “eliciting incisive, vibrantly etched playing from the orchestra.” This revival of the Lyric Opera of Chicago production, which was designed by John Gunter and originally directed by Sir Peter Hall, is directed by Australian opera director Stephen Barlow, who most recently directed the Company’s La Rondine in 2007. The San Francisco Opera Chorus is directed by Ian Robertson.
Considered by many to be one of Verdi’s greatest and most demanding operas, Otello is based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Arrigo Boito’s libretto tells the story of the great Moorish warrior Otello and his crippling jealousy over the imagined dalliances of his beautiful wife Desdemona. Otello’s ensign, the vengeful Iago, capitalizes on his leader’s weakness by rousing the general’s suspicion with false stories about Desdemona and Cassio. Otello’s obsession and mistrust of his wife eventually accomplish Iago’s murderous plans.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the seven performances of Otello are scheduled for November 8 (2 p.m.), November 13 (8 p.m.), November 17 (8 p.m.), November 21 (8 p.m.), November 25 (7:30 p.m.), November 29 (2 p.m.) and December 2 (7:30 p.m.), 2009.
Tickets and Information
Tickets for Otello range from $15 to $310 and may be purchased online at or from the San Francisco Opera Box Office either in person or by phone at (415) 864-3330. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only. 310 each and
All performances will feature an informative Opera Talk by artistic and musical director of Berkeley Opera, Jonathan Khuner. Talks begin fifty-five minutes before each performance in the orchestra section of the War Memorial Opera House and are presented free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit and
Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Otello and San Francisco Opera’s 2009-10 season, please visit