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A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Anne Corrance Monk.

Shakespeare Lives in Opera

Shakespeare’s extraordinary storytelling powers and his ability to draw vivid, complex characters influenced arts in various genres. In the 17th century, a new form of music theatre was invented in the Italian city of Florence and given the name ‘opera’; composers of opera began to engage with Shakespeare both as a dramatist and in terms of the psychological journeys made by the characters in his plays. From A Mid-summer Night’s Dream to Otello, from Hamlet to Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s works have been an inspiration to various great composers in combining words and music in a theatrical context.

Join us for a series of opera talks exploring Shakespeare as a living writer who still speaks for all people and nations.

Dying upon a kiss: Giuseppe Verdi's Otello An opera talk by Peter Gordon 

Jointly presented with Opera Hong Kong

Date & Time:  19.00-20.00 | Tuesday, 13 September 2016
Venue: Room 307-8, 3/F, British Council, 3 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Speaker: Peter Gordon
Language: English
FREE admission, please click here for registration.

Perhaps the greatest and most enduring operatic settings of Shakespeare are by the Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), whose ideas about drama and characterisation were heavily influenced by Shakespeare throughout his career.

In his long life, the beloved Italian composer turned to William Shakespeare for three of his operas: Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff. Verdi had to be coaxed out retirement to compose Otello, but the result is arguably the most masterful translation of any play to the operatic stage. The libretto is faithful in tone and often word-for-word with the original, while the music highlights the emotions, psychology and drama. Otello is as much a dramatic interpretation of Shakespeare, illuminating the original, as a new creative work, matching Shakespeare in its dramatic impact as well as their emotional and psychological depth.

Visit HERE for more information on Otello presented by Opera Hong Kong 13-16 October.  

Shakespeare Goes to Opera: 
A Discussion led by Peter Gordon and Kingman Lo

Date & Time:  19.00-20.15, Wednesday, 14September 2016
Venue: Room 307-8, 3F, British Council Hong Kong
Speakers: 
- Peter Gordon, Editor, Asian Review of Books
- Kingman Lo, Director General, Musica Viva
Language: English
FREE admission, please click here for registration.   

No playwright has served as repeatedly as operatic inspiration as William Shakespeare. This session will look at four of the Bard’s greatest nineteenth-century operatic hits, two each from France and Italy: Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, and Giuseppe’s Verdi’s Macbeth and Otello — all in preparation for a mid-September production by Musica Viva of the best-known scenes from these operas.

None are merely plays set to music. Plays of this complexity cannot be translated directly to opera: they have been streamlined with characters cut and action re-arranged. We’ll look at the differences and similarities — from plot to actual words — between the original plays and the operas and discuss how the music enhances and changes the experience. The session will include operatic versions of “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, “To be or not to be”, “Out damn spot and Otello’s monologue — which became a love duet.

 Visit HERE for more information on Great Opera Scenes Based on Shakespeare presented by Musica Viva in Hong Kong on 16-17 September.

About Peter Gordon

Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books. He began a series of opera lectures with the Dante Alighieri Society several years ago and now gives almost a dozen talks per year.He also writes on opera and the arts for several local and regional publications.  In this session, Peter will look at the similarities and differences between the original and the opera of Otello, and how Shakespeare’s searing insights into human strength and frailty were converted by Verdi into music. 

About Kingman Lo

Returning from Italy where he worked at the Opera of Rome and the Morlacchi Theatre of Perugia in the 1960s, Lo Kingman has since written, directed and designed over 200 stage productions ranging from opera, drama, dance to musical theatre with performances in Asia, Europe and the United States. Over the years, he has made significant contributions not only in the performing arts but also in the fields of higher education and public service. He was Director of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts from 1993 to 2004. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours from international academic and arts institutions as well as from governments of Hong Kong, Britain, Italy and France. In 2008, he participated in the creation of Musica Viva, an organization dedicated to nurturing young artists and extending their performing opportunities in operas and concerts.

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