BRITISHNESS IN THE ARTS: MUSIC

This course focuses on six plays by the greatest representative of Britishness in literature – William Shakespeare – and places them within the context of international adaptation. We shall study them as fruitful sources for what Bolter and Grusin have called remediation: new media achieve their cultural significance by paying homage to, and refashioning, earlier media. Valuable samples of classical music will be chosen to illustrate the genres of opera, semi-opera, musical theatre, and incidental music.

Even if this is a course on music, it does not address connoisseurs. The opening seminar will introduce the students to a minimum of musical notions (history, typologies, terminology, etc.), while the rest of the semester will be dedicated to an interdisciplinary analysis of the plays and their musical counterparts. The focus will be on the process of literary adaptation from theatre to libretto (the text of the musical works), as well as on the influence of the mentalities and theatrical conventions imposed by the time and place in which they were written. The distinction between adaptation, appropriation, and remediation will also be tackled. The course will have both a strong British interest and a strong international one, as it will analyse music from six countries and two continents. The subject matter will also be looked at historically, as the musical corpus will cover works from the seventeenth century through to the end of the twentieth. Music can increase dramatic tension and character outline through tonal structure, rhythm, timbre, or vocal virtuosity. This course will analyse the entwinement between dramatic warp and musical invention that generates new remapped works.

The instructor will provide visual and auditory support (DVDs and CDs), which the students will watch/listen to before the classes, and the seminars will proceed as general conversations. The final aim of the course is to reveal the cultural afterlives of Shakespeare’s plays, the universalisation of Britishness, as well as the beauty and richness conferred by remediation.

Course instructor: Dr. Alina Bottez

SCHEDULE

Week 1: General Introduction to the Course. Essential Music and Opera Notions

Week 2: The Battle between Flesh and Wit. Identity and Alterity between Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600-1) and Its Opera Adaptations (Antonio Salieri: Falstaff – 1799, and Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor – 1849)

Readings: William Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor; libretti to Salieri’s and Nicolai’s operas

Week 3: The Battle between Flesh and Wit. Identity and Alterity between Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600-1) and Its Opera Adaptations (Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff – 1893, and Vaughan Williams: Sir John in Love – 1929)

Readings: William Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor; libretti to Verdi’s and Vaughan Williams’ operas

Week 4: Black and White Dichotomies: Shakespeare’s Othello (1604-5) Seen by Rossini (1816)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s Othello, libretto to Rossini’s opera

Week 5: Black and White Dichotomies: Shakespeare’s Othello (1604-5) Seen by Verdi (1887)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s Othello, libretto to Verdi’s opera

Week 6: Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair: Verdi’s Macbeth (1847)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, libretto to Verdi’s opera

Week 7: The Magic Spell of Fairies, Elves and Goblins: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595-6) Yesterday and Today (Henry Purcell: The Fairy Queen – 1692, and Felix Mendelssohn: Ein Sommernachtstraum – incidental music, 1827)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; libretti to Purcell’s and Mendelssohn’s works

Week 8: The Magic Spell of Fairies, Elves and Goblins: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595-6) Yesterday and Today (Benjamin Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 1960, and Pascal Bentoiu: Visul unei nopţi de vară – incidental music)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; libretto to Britten’s opera

Week 9: Never-Ending Love Story: Romeo and Juliet (1594-5) – Vincenzo Bellini: I Capuleti e I Montecchi (1830) and Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story (1957)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; libretti to Bellini’s and Bernstein’s works

Week 10: To Be or Not to Be Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600-1)? Ambroise Thomas: Hamlet (1868) and Pascal Bentoiu: Hamlet (1969)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet; libretti to Thomas’s and Bentoiu’ operas

REQUIREMENTS AND EVALUATION

  • A minimum of 50% attendance
  • Two oral presentations (not on the same theatre play and not within the same seminar)
  • Final oral exam