Monday, January 10, 2011

Shakespeare meets opera

Although I am admittedly an “opera-newbie” and have yet to see a live opera performance, I am glad that my internship at BLO is going to change that. A long time lover of musicals and theatre in general, I am definitely excited to see a different type of show on stage. I must admit though, that I am particularly excited to see Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream this spring.

As any good English major should, I’ve definitely had my fair share of exposure to Shakespeare’s works – but not like this. We were always taught that one of the greatest things about the Bard is that his works are universal and can be adapted in a plethora of ways – and they actually make sense (most of the time). The classic plays can be performed just as they were written in the period they are set, done with complete 16th century costumes and sets, and sure, people enjoy them. With the romance, fighting, lies and the occasional disguise, what’s not to enjoy? Take the classic story, set it in modern times and tweak the characters a bit, and the universal themes speak to an even wider audience. From West Side Story to She’s the Man (yes, the movie starring Amanda Bynes) it’s been done before. Through these mediums, a whole new audience has been introduced Shakespeare’s works without even knowing it.

There is no denying Shakespeare’s influence over all facets of theatre and film; but I never realized that his influence extended to opera. When I think about it, though, it makes perfect sense – if set to the correct music, Shakespeare’s text would almost flow right off the tongue; and the music, if anything, only emphasizes the varying emotions that sometimes are not easily conveyed with words. Not to mention most of the plays already embody characteristics that make operas so entertaining – passion, tension, and of course, romance. I guess the ease with which Shakespearean works lend themselves to adaptation makes it hard to believe that the Britten adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream won’t do the work justice. I think I’m just excited to see Shakespeare from yet another lens.
- Katie McNamara, Saint Anselm College

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