Friday, April 20 , 2018, 5:01 pm | Fair 62º


Gerald Carpenter: Opera Santa Barbara Presents ‘Ode to Opera’

The Young Artists will play out selected scenes in a Sunday afternoon performance

As a consciousness-raiser for its May 8 performance of Guiseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, Opera Santa Barbara has concocted entertainment called Ode to Opera: Shakespearean Opera Scenes — scenes from other operas based on Shakespeare’s plays, fully staged with sets and costumes, starring talented young singers from all over the country and directed by James Marvel.

The opera’s 2010 Young Artists will take to the boards of Victoria Hall Theater at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The program includes scenes from Falstaff (1893) by Verdi (Act I, Scene 2); Roméo et Juliette (1867) by Charles Gounod (Act 1: “Juliette’s Waltz”/Act II: Full/Act III, Scene 2: complete scene through Duke’s entrance); Otello (1887) by Verdi (Act IV; “Willow Song” and “Ave Maria”); Hamlet (1868) by Ambroise Thomas (Act IV, Scene 2: Scène et air d’Ophélie); and, as an encore, “Brush up your Shakespeare” from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate (based on The Taming of the Shrew).

You’ll note that all of these operas date from the later 19th century. Shakespeare (1564-1616) ) owes his present, universally conceded, supremacy to his revival by the romantic poets and composers of the early 19th century. Before that, especially on the continent, you will find no operas based on his plays (except in Restoration England). In the 1820s, it all changed.

In 1827, an English theater troupe visited Paris. One of the plays they put on was Hamlet, with Ophelia played by the beautiful Irish actress Harriet Smithson. Hector Berlioz, age 24, was in the audience. He was transformed.

In his Memoires he wrote: “Shakespeare, coming upon me unawares, struck me like a thunderbolt. The lightening flash of that discovery revealed to me at a stroke the whole heaven of art, illuminating it to its remotest corners. I recognized the meaning of grandeur, beauty, dramatic truth ...” The next day, he saw Miss Smithson as Juliet. “I knew I was lost. ... An English critic stated ... that after seeing Miss Smithson as Juliet I exclaimed, ‘I shall marry that woman and write my greatest symphony on the play!’ I did both, but I never said anything of the sort.”

The dam burst, and Europe went mad for Shakespeare. Even so, it was mainly the stories, the characters and the drama of Shakespeare that inspired composers, not the poetry. Berlioz admits that when he first saw Hamlet, “I did not know a word of English.” But what does it matter? Operas don’t achieve immortality because their librettos are great literature.

Tickets will be available at the Victoria Hall box office before the performances, or at The Granada box office, 1214 State St. (805.899.2222).

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >