by Emily S. Binetti
On Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19, SHSU Opera will present The Bard: Opera’s Celebration of Shakespeare in the Recital Hall of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center. This program of opera scenes is intended to commemorate the four-hundred-year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and explore the poet’s influence on opera throughout the ages. Members of the cast will be performing a variety of Shakespeare-inspired works, including Elizabethan madrigals and lute songs, spoken monologues from Shakespeare’s plays, and scenes from such works as Verdi’s Otello, Bernstein’s West Side Story, and Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette.
The program was conceived as an outgrowth of the opera students’ study of Elizabethan drama, and the style of dialogue that was used by Shakespeare. According to director Rebecca Grimes, “Iambic pentameter, the poetic meter employed by Shakespeare, demands a certain style of vocal inflection and rhythm, so that the texts have a sort of musical, singing quality. We have used this semester to examine Shakespeare dialogue and find correlations between Shakespearean language and what we do as singing actors.” The project has been unique for these aspiring young singers, who often are inexperienced with spoken dialogue. According to veteran cast member John-Michael Jermain, “Putting Shakespeare into music, into speech even, has been a difficult but highly rewarding endeavor for all of us in the SHSU Opera program. In the words of The Bard himself, it has been an experience ‘devoutly to be wished’!”
The performance also features the final monologue in Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, written in 1610. In the scene, the magician Prospero begs the audience to be released from his bonds of magic and allowed to live out the rest of his life in peace. Some critics believe that this monologue is an autobiographical reference:Prospero represents Shakespeare himself, and Prospero’s final farewell to magic is really Shakespeare’s final farewell to his audience. After The Tempest, Shakespeare retired to Stratford-Upon-Avon where he died in 1616 at the age of 52.
Tickets are on sale at the Box Office of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center and are $15 for General Admission and $5 for Students. For tickets and information, call 936 294 2339 or visit shsu.edu/boxoffice.