A piece that a friend brought to me several years ago was Telaio: Desdemona by Susan Botti. It features a string quartet, harp, piano, percussion, and soprano, and is a psychological trip through the character of Desdemona from Shakespeare's Othello. This piece ultimately launched the Colorado New Music Ensemble.
Since the piece is relatively new and the only regular performer of it is the composer, there does not seem to be a full recording or performance of it anywhere online. Thus, I highly recommend checking out Botti's album, Listen, It's Snowing, to get the full effect of the work.
A Brief Overview of Botti
One of these days I'll do a weekly listening for someone who might benefit from some of the attention (if anyone actually would), but Ms. Botti gets a similar statement that I have made about many of my previous picks: she does not need the help.
Her career is expansive to say the least, with such credentials as the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and on and on. She was formerly on the faculty at the University of Michigan, and currently holds faculty positions with the Manhattan School of Music and Vassar College. Her music has been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and many other top organizations.
In addition to all of this, she is also an active performer of not only her own works, but also works of her contemporaries, including George Crumb, John Cage, Harry Parch, and James Matheson. On top of all of this, she is also a wonderful and responsive human being with whom to correspond, offering great insight into her own works and the performance therein willingly and without question.
A bit about the piece
As Botti describes, the piece is a character sketch of sorts on the character of Desdemona organized in an alternating recitative and aria structure. Each recit is a setting of from Shakespeare's prose about Desdemona, while the arias consist of settings of Italian folksong or the poet Gaspara Stampa. It is a compelling and vivid depiction of the tragedy that befalls the leading lady.
The curious—and quite ingenious—aspect of this work is that the Shakespeare text is taken from OTHER characters in Othello, and never provides direct insight into Desdemona's self. Furthermore, when she is singing directly, she uses words other than her own (Stampa and folksongs). By developing her character through the eyes of others, this emphasizes how incredibly out of her control Desdemona's fate really is.
Be it staged or not, this chamber work is vivid and enthralling, providing a full evening of sorrow and depression fitting of even Shakespeare's great tragedy.