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, both to the literary genre of the libretto, and to the medium of music. We shall study them as fruitful sources for what Suhor has called transmediation, and Bolter and Grusin 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, and musical theatre.

Even if this is a course on musical adaptation, it does not address connoisseurs. The opening seminar will introduce the students to the basic 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 transmediation/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, CDs, YouTube links, file transfers), which the students will watch/listen to before the classes, which 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 transmediation/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)

Readings: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; libretto to Purcell’s semi-opera 

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)

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

Recommended Secondary Bibliography:

Albright, Daniel. Musicking Shakespeare: A Conflict of Theatres. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. 2007. http://library.lol/main/B3933BC495B59AE891D33BC9EC2C7676

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation. Understanding New Media. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. 2000. http://library.lol/main/E74D5E00E3EF42DCCDC332101A5215F3

Collins, Michael.  “The Literary Background of Bellini’s ‘I Capuleti e i Montecchi.’” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 35, no. 3. Berkeley: University of California Press. Autumn 1982, pp. 532-538. https://www.jstor.org/stable/830986 

Graham, Arthur. Shakespeare in Opera, Ballet, Orchestral Music, and Song: An Introduction to Music Inspired by the Bard. Lewiston: Mellen.

Hutcheon, Linda, and Michael Hutcheon. Bodily Charm: Living Opera. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. 

Hutcheon, Linda, and Michael Hutcheon. Opera: Desire, Disease, and Death. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Hutcheon, Linda, and Michael Hutcheon. Opera: The Art of Dying. Harvard University Press. 2004. http://library.lol/main/80D5D13B0D40B3416F99BEA5E6231EC9

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. NY and London: Routledge. 2006. http://library.lol/main/C0AEEF8A0018893DCB14B8B35F26B49C

Leitch, Thomas M. The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies. Oxford University Press. 2017. http://library.lol/main/DEC002475FF6C2D0F08A28B3FC633960

Noske, Frits.  “Verbal to musical drama: adaptation or creation?” Drama, Dance and Music. Themes in Drama 3. Ed. James Redmond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sanders, Julie. Adaptation and Appropriation. The New Critical Idiom Series. Routledge, 2005. http://library.lol/main/621FA0C2DB27C20B8C1A429822A4C370

Schmidgall, Gary. Literature as Opera. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.

Schmidgall, Gary.  Shakespeare and Opera. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1990.

Smith, Colin. “‘Ma in Spagna son già mille e tre’: On Opera and Literature.” Modern Language Review (MLR) The Modern Language Review, vol. 91, no. 4 (Oct., 1996), pp. xxvii-xxxix. https://doi.org/3733615 OR https://www.jstor.org/stable/3733615?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A744a2d524605ed33d4627a55ee049ad9&seq=13#page_scan_tab_contents

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 (2/3 of the final mark)