Shakespeare and Verdi
Professors Malcolm Richardson and Andreas Giger Department of English and Department of Music
How can music interpret Shakespeare’s words? How does contemporary culture affect both the music and the way in which audiences interpret those words? How do these works resonate with audiences differently today? The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) worshiped Shakespeare’s plays and wrote three operas based on them: Macbeth, Otello (based on Othello), and Falstaff (based on The Merry Wives of Windsor and 1 Henry IV). Verdi’s operas are still performed world-wide, almost as often as the plays they’re based on. In this team-taught course we'll investigate the historical and formal aspects of the four Shakespeare plays, the theatrical culture in which Shakespeare worked, the reasons why Verdi’s chose these particular plays as operatic subjects, the methods and conventions he used to adapt them as operas, and the way in which the music becomes a method of interpreting – as opposed to simply setting to music -- some of the world’s most celebrated plays.