Desdemona is the most fiery angel in Shakespeare’s creation–a radiant and radical woman of independence, courage, and love. She is now given an astonishing and provocative voice by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who reveals secrets in Othello that will change forever our reading of the play.

In a time outside of time we discover the other African in Shakespeare’s play–Barbary, the maid who raised Desdemona on African stories and songs, stunningly embodied by the great Malian singer Rokia Traoré.

As women’s voices fill the night air, we are in an intimate, spellbinding theatrical séance, both haunted and liberating, that moves in words and music across continents and centuries, connecting Elizabethan England to the Courts of Timbuktu to the future of the race–the human race–on this earth.

Desdemona was commissioned and co-produced by Wiener Festwochen, Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, Cal Performances, Berkeley California, Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, New York, spielzeit’europa I Berliner Festspiele, and Barbican, London, Arts Council London and London 2012 Festival. The premiere performance, directed by Peter Sellars, took place on 15 May 2011 at the Akzent Theater in Vienna, Austria.

News & Reviews


A ritual of spellbinding beauty

LA Times

This is a remarkable, challenging and bravely original work

The Guardian

this is a great, challenging, haunting and lasting work.

LA Times

Attendance Information