Music for Staging *Othello*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 58. Tuesday, 19 Feb 1991.
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 91 13:04 EST
Subject: Music for Staging *Othello*
I am responding specifically to Steve Urkowitz's query about music
to accompany the shift from Venice to Cyprus. Last summer in England, I
saw the television version of Trevor Nunn's *Othello*, which originated in
The Other Place at Stratford upon Avon. It's a brilliant production, set
in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, with Iago (played by
Ian MacKellan [sp?]) and other soldiers as members of a Near Eastern colo-
nial regiment, officered by a black man. Clearly little of this production
will be of assistance to a setting of the play in 1500, but I did notice
something about the background music in Cyprus: it alternated between evan-
gelical hymns, played on a portable foot-pump organ, and sounds that I would
describe as coming from the Islamic liturgy--a mullah's cry, for example.
The mixture of popular religion from two different cultures was very effective
as a way of distinguishing Cyprus from Venice. Perhaps something of the same
effect could be achieved for an early-sixteenth-century setting.