Results tagged “Shakespeare” from ARTicles

Battened down, like the rest of the city, in the face of Hurricane Sandy, I am forced to rely on my memories of that earlier era--the weekend--when I could just stroll out to exciting events. By tomorrow I will be reduced to reporting on my reading matter (I could tell you about the rain and the winds, but you are better off watching your TV or your laptop for that). But for now, here is a nostalgic continuation of the kind of cultural reporting that was possible in pre-Sandy New York: 

On Friday night I went to the excellent music club Le Poisson Rouge, which showcases classical, jazz, rock, and indie-new-music in an informal nightclub-like environment. The program consisted of Thomas Adès and some singers from the Metropolitan Opera putting on a few songs.  Two of the pieces were excerpted from Adès's opera, The Tempest, which recently opened at the Met; the others were all settings of Shakespeare verse (plus one instrumental passage) by Henry Purcell, Igor Stravinsky, Michael Tippett, and Charles Ives. 

In what I have now come to see as an eerie forecast of the tempest that was about to engulf us, we got to hear five different versions of Shakespeare's "Full fathom five" in the course of the evening. Each of the composers had chosen to do it in his own particular style, and all five versions were pretty amazing. Had I been Adès, I would not have put my own work directly after Purcell, but Adès--who accompanied almost every song on the piano--is not known for his excessive modesty or his fear of comparisons. And though I liked his setting least of the five, I thought it staunchly held up its end, which is pretty remarkable in this company.  The main problem with the Adès version is that Meredith Oakes, his librettist, has tampered with the Shakespeare verse to make it simpler:  this is just plain dumb, especially with a well-known and already song-worthy passage like "Full fathom five," and none of the other composers was silly enough to try it.

You might think it would be boring to hear the same words sung over and over, but actually that was a big part of the fascination, because the process trained our ears: we were able to listen for how each composer would wreak changes on the phrases "suffer a sea-change..rich and strange," or suggest tolling bells behind the repeated words "ding-dong." Most exciting of all was the chance to hear and see professional opera-singers from this close up, where they actually had to restrain their voices to keep from blasting us out of our stage-hugging seats. I especially loved the baritone Simon Keenlyside and the countertenor Iestyn Davies, but all the performers were superb, and it made me look forward (though with some trepidation about the libretto) to seeing the whole opera next month.
October 29, 2012 5:39 AM |
Before You Know It Crop.jpgOn Sunday, as Mark Rylance accepted a Tony Award for his amazing work in Jez Butterworth's riotous dark epic "Jerusalem," he launched into a prose poem from Minnesota-based Louis Jenkins, who has been frequently featured in Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" and "Prairie Home Companion."
 
Rylance also recited Jenkins when he won his first Tony in 2008, so I went in search of more about the poet. I found an excellent selective sampling here. Today many bloggers are linking to Jenkins' own website, where you can hear the poet reading these lines that Rylance made suddenly famous:

Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, "Say, I want to try that." Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side."

Much as I once loved to wander the stacks of the great libraries of my school days, these late-night Internet searches are downright addictive. When one is in a certain mood, the straight-line Q followed by its A is not the thing. Free roaming is, the more meandering the better.

To wit, Sunday's NYT op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd on the "new" Newt Gingrich, wife-doter, begins thus: "Newt Gingrich used to get in trouble for cheating on wives and dumping them. Now he's notorious for being uxorious." 

She has used the word "uxorious" before, so I thought I'd look up its etymology (the root is Latin for wife). Did Shakespeare employ it? Concordance said no. But in at least one of the online dictionaries, "uxorious" was allied with "wittol"  -- a cuckold who puts up with it --  and "wittol" I did remember from Shakespeare. The suspicious Master Ford, in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," shouts out in a jealous rage: "Cuckold! Wittol! Cuckold" -- followed by something about the devil. 

I did a quick Google search for the rest of Ford's line, but I didn't do it correctly. "Uxorious" was still in the search field along with "wittol."

Shakespeare.pngHappy accident! Up popped a play, written in 1921 -- "Shakespeare, a play in five episodes," by Harold Frederick Rubinstein (English solicitor and playwright) and Clifford Bax (poet, lyricist, playwright, translator, and brother of the composer Arnold Bax) -- which sets forth a hypothetical picture of the Bard's life from his early infatuation with the Dark Lady to a bitter, burned-out, cynical end.  

One of the lines contains the exact phrase "uxorious wittol." It occurs near the end of the play -- inset at right, click to enlarge -- when Shakespeare is reciting a hilarious rant that constitutes his final will and testament to his bewildered landlady. It includes these lines: "...to every woman I would leave six lovers for the six days of the week, and for Sundays a rich and uxorious wittol; to every man, the ability to push, lie, pander and oppress, for by these he shall climb to honour."  

Almost worthy of the Bard himself.
June 13, 2011 9:01 AM |

ShrewThumbCST.jpgShakespeare's Katherina of Padua is outrageous, hostile and terribly funny, and "The Taming of the Shrew" is a great game of wits as long as the game seems fair. But there's the rub for modern audiences. Never mind that the shrew was a stock character with a stock remedy. You can feel the squirming begin as Kate is systematically humiliated, muddied, starved and sleep-deprived.

Faced with the prospect of half an audience pleading, "Say it ain't so!" as Kate kneels for peace, her hand below her husband's foot, what's a producer to do?

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has tried something new with Neil LaBute, a playwright who knows a thing or two about sexual politics in the modern era.

May 17, 2010 6:54 AM |


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