(not brought to you by Crisco, a product of the J.M. Smucker Co.)
The celebrated Austrian tenor, Leo Slezak, was singing Otello at the Houston Opera House and here he recounts how the program set out the operatic entertainment for the evening. Slezak was aware that American Opera Houses had pioneered the exploitation of sponsorship and advertising but even the humorously quick-witted Slezak was unprepared for the way that Crisco, a brand of shortening (baking fat) was brought to the attention of the audience:
Opera in four acts, by Giuseppe Verdi
The people of Cyprus on their knees are praying for the safety of Otello, whose ship is fighting the elements. The danger passes, Otello arrives and greets the people with the words:
USE CRISCO, THE BEST SHORTENING
"Rejoice! The Turk is vanquished and drowned in the sea" The people hail Otello:
CRISCO IS UNSURPASSED
Iago, jealous of Cassio, who enjoys Otello's confidence, tries to render Cassio drunk. A drinking song:
CRISCO HAS NO RIVAL
is heard, and Cassio, by now quite drunk, attacks Montano. Otello rushes in and calls out:
CRISCO IS ECONOMICAL
"Down with your swords!" Cassio is being demoted. Desdemona, Otello's bride, appears in the doorway to the castle. Otello takes her hand and they sing a lovely duet:
CRISCO USERS ARE SATISFIED
which belongs to the best Verdi wrote, and is considered one of the pearls of operatic music.
And so it continued through to the finale.
After Otello has strangled Desdemona, he plunges his dagger into his breast, and dying, sings the touching phrase:
ASK ONLY FOR CRISCO, THE FAMOUS SHORTENING
"Kiss me, kiss me again!" He dies. End of the opera.
From The Rough Guide to Opera by Matthew Boyden. Used without permission and reposted here by me purely for amusement value. Photo from dolcepress.com