LA Opera Mounts a New MACBETH Starring Plácido Domingo

Macbeth - LA Opera

Placido Domingo as Macbeth with Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Roberto Tagliavini as Banquo. Photo by Karen Almond

Plácido Domingo stars in the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth, opening September 17 downtown at the Music Center, with Ekaterina Semenchuk joining him as Lady Macbeth. The brand new LA Opera production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, Tony Award-winning director of A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder, who previously directed The Ghosts of Versailles for LA Opera in 2015. Macbeth is conducted by LA Opera’s Music Director, James Conlon.

Of the opera, Conlon says: “Compared to Otello and Falstaff—Verdi’s late-career masterpieces, similarly drawn from Shakespeare—his Macbeth seems less consequential. But that is only because we judge it by the measure of a standard set by the composer himself. Viewed in comparison with the composer’s contemporaries, and with many of his owns works of the period, it looms large. Had Verdi died or ceased to compose after Macbeth, it would stand today as a towering work of the Italian repertoire.”

He goes on to explain. “[There is] one major innovation that exemplifies the radical nature of his vision: Macbeth is a loveless opera, ‘un opera senza amore.’ George Bernard Shaw’s adage that ‘Italian Romantic operas are about a tenor and a soprano who want to make love, and a baritone who won’t let them’ is utterly unseated. No compromise was to be made to the expectations of the public to provide a stereotypic cast of characters in each vocal category. There is, in fact, no antagonist. The only desire expressed in this opera is the desire for power. There is no battle of equals, only an inner conflict with arrogance and insatiable ambition, and the corrupting lust for power. It has also been observed that Verdi’s opera is a tragedy for the royal couple, but a comedy for the witches.”

LA Opera - Macbeth

Fight director Steve Rankin in rehearsal choreographing a pack of sword-wielding witch-dancers. Photo by Karen Almond

LA Opera - Macbeth

A video crew will shoot one of the king’s heads and the green color of the backdrop, and on dancer Jean Michelle Sayeg’s legs, will be ‘dropped out’ digitally to create a supernatural floating head effect. Photo by Larry Ho

LA Opera - Macbeth

Singers rehearse with James Conlon before moving to the stage for dress and tech rehearsals. Photo by Larry Ho

Click here for more behind-the-scenes photos of LA Opera’s new production.

LA Opera: MACBETH

September 17 – October 16, 2016
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
135 North Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets and info: www.laopera.org

Michael Shaw Fisher’s Skullduggery to open Sacred Fools’ 2016-17 Season

Skullduggery

Shakespeare’s words, “To thine own self be true” could easily be the tag line to Sacred Fools Theater Company’s upcoming 20th anniversary season. This bunch of fools will embark on a journey to do what they do best in 2016-17 and, according to co-artistic director Alicia Conway Rock, “reflect upon and celebrate what we call ‘Foolish’ — a spirit of irreverence and ingenuity underscored with energy and optimism that has been with us since the founding days of our company.”

To kick off that worthy endeavor is Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, a collaboration between the Fools and writer/composer, Michael Shaw Fisher. Those familiar with Fisher’s previous works like Shakespeare’s Last Night Out, Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment, The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd. and other Hollywood Fringe Festival hits know the kind of wit and invention he brings to the table.

If you’ve ever wondered what might have happened between Hamlet Sr., Gertrude, and Claudius, Fisher’s angle will unpack the story of their love triangle, song by song, in an unlikely journey from innocent youth to the “most foul” murder in the canon.

As for the music in this twisted tale, musical director Michael Teoli describes it as a rock musical “but it’s less hard-hitting rock and more eclectic. Think Tom Waits meets Stephen Sondheim meets David Lynch.” Teoli is also doing the arrangements for the show and says the instrumentation includes marimba, two guitars, Teoli on bass, and percussion (like cahone and bongos). It sounds pretty fabulous and, dare I say, even a bit spooky.

The show stars John Bobek as Claudius, David Haverty as Hamlet, Sr., and Leigh Wulff as Gertrude. Scott Leggett, whose performance as Fatty Arbuckle in Sacred Fools’ Stoneface was one for the book, directs. You’ve also seen his directorial work in Neverwhere; Beaverquest! The Musical; and Forbidden Zone: Live in the 6th Dimension, so be prepared.

Artwork for the season, including the Skullduggery image above, is by fine art painter Gabe Leonard, another long-time friend of the company. For a complete look at Sacred Fools’ upcoming season, go to www.sacredfools.org.

SKULLDUGGERY: THE MUSICAL PREQUEL TO HAMLET
September 23 – November 5, 2016 (Opening night 9/30)
Sacred Fools Theater Company
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Fri-Sat at 8pm. Sundays at 3pm beginning Oct. 16
Tickets and More Info: www.sacredfools.org

Christopher Hoag’s Cinematic Approach to Creating Music for Shakespeare

For the past seven years, composer Christopher Hoag has conjured up battle scenes, storms, romance, and adventure with his music for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s annual summer festival. If you’ve seen one of their productions, you know how beautifully his rich orchestral scores enhance Shakespeare’s text on their outdoor festival stage. He’s back again this year writing music for two shows: the currently running Henry V, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening July 15. Here he talks about the process of bringing the world of Shakespeare’s plays to life with music.

Chris Hoag

Christopher Hoag

Chris, you’re working with director Michael Arndt on Henry V. Where do you find your musical inspiration?

The reasons why the director and I make the stylistic choices we do for the Kingsmen scores are always varied. Sometimes it’s the period, sometimes it comes from a conceptual approach to the play. In the case of our Henry V, it was a combination of both. The score really stems from Michael’s idea to put the Chorus in modern times as a documentary narrator/TV reporter, and the actual events of the play proper in a more period setting. I had to bridge those two worlds. So I thought it would be fun to do a very electronic sounding score; one that’s still dramatic and orchestral in nature, but using predominately electronic orchestrations towards that end. The score is really an homage to the electronic scores that I grew up with in the 80s by composers like Vangelis, Michael Stearns, Tangerine Dream, and Wendy Carlos. It’s been great fun exploring these sounds both in a modern and period context.

The electronics also have a tendency to be a bit cooler and removed emotionally, which I believe reflects Michael’s interest in how modern media portrays serious events through a sometimes very aloof and self-serving lens. Ultimately, much of the play is about war; the triumphs and the tremendous tragedies. And those things are also major points of reference for the music.

Are there particular cues or sequences we should listen for?

I feel very fortunate in that I am often asked to write an “overture” for the Kingsmen shows. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned thing to do, but as a composer it’s a great opportunity to stretch out and to musically “set the emotional stage” for what you are about to experience. It’s also very helpful for me to draw from it as I go through the process of scoring the rest of the play. The overture for Henry V states the main motifs that recur numerous times throughout the show.

Beyond that, I’d suggest listening for the “Once more unto the breach” speech which goes into the siege at Harfleur. I love scoring dialog. It’s a delicate thing, but when it’s working there’s nothing better for me personally. And this is such a rousing and powerful speech. Here, the music is constantly building and modulating, but never quite resolving….until the final charge into battle.

Of course, aside from the director, it’s always a hugely important thing for the actors to be okay with the music I write for them. And in this case our Henry, played brilliantly by Ty Mayberry, asked for a copy of the music so he could work with it. The cue is in two parts and it’s built in such a way that Ty has plenty of room to play. It’s a good example of the wonderfully collaborative nature of this company.  More

Shakespeare at the Bowl (Plus a discount on tickets!)

Shakespeare at the Bowl
Summer Shakespeare under the stars? In Hollywood that can only mean that it’s time for Shakespeare at the Bowl — two performances only, August 30 and September 1, at the Hollywood Bowl. On these joyous evenings, actors from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will perform classic scenes from the playwright’s best works, directed by Iqbal Khan, adapted by the Globe’s music director, Bill Barclay.

Bramwell Tovey conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program that includes:

KORNGOLD: Much Ado About Nothing Suite, Op 11
SCHMITT: Antoine et Cleopatre Suite No. 1
BERLIOZ: Roméo et Juliette: Queen Mab Scherzo
TCHAIKOVSKY: Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy Overture

Our friends at the Bowl have also got a great deal for you on tickets. Get 20% off with the exclusive discount code SHAKESPEARE! Tickets are available now at Shakespeare at the Bowl.

UK Band The Nearlys Release “Under the Greenwood Tree”

The Nearlys Under the Greenwood Tree

In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday, UK band The Nearlys will release a new single due out Thursday, April 23, 2015. “Under the Greenwood Tree” is the first release of 2015 for The Nearlys and features music by Helen Walker set to a lyric by William Shakespeare. Walker plays piano, electric piano, synths and bass, with Mike Walker on drums. The release also includes “And Again,” an instrumental track in the form of a Round, played on Appalachian dulcimer, bass and synths.

Says Walker, “We feel ‘And Again’ complements ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ as a release; both tracks aspire to capture the peace and beauty of nature, the heart of Shakespeare’s lyric.”

You can listen to excerpts at www.thenearlys.com. I think you’ll find them quite haunting and beautiful. Happy Birthday, Will.

Under the Greenwood Tree (Single) by The Nearlys
Genre: Alternative Folk/Jazz
Format: Digital Download
Worldwide Release
Catalogue No. HEGDDS17
© Everyday Records 2015

Buy on iTunes
www.facebook.com/TheNearlys
www.everydayrecords.com

Romeo & Juliet: Happy Endings at Segerstrom Concert Hall

Romeo_Juliet_Happy_Endings-630x185

April 19 at 3:00 pm, relive the timeless tale of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers through Prokofiev’s masterful music. Carl St. Clair conducts Orange County’s Pacific Symphony in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 featuring dancers David Tai Kim (as Young Romeo) and Keira Schwartz (as Young Juliet), choreographed by Lorin Johnson, with actors Rich Wordes as Romeo (Actor) and Amy Hitchcock as Juliet. For this concert, the actors and dancers will reinstate the original happy ending, which was banned by Joseph Stalin in favor of Shakespeare’s tragic finale.

There will also be a free pre-concert discussion: Romeo and Juliet: How Should The Story End? from 1:00 – 2:30 pm in the Judy Morr Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, featuring Joseph Horowitz and UC Irvine Professor Julia Lupton, as well as the actors. Using film clips, they explore the different ways in which the lovers’ tale has been told, with special attention given to Prokofiev’s translation of an Elizabethan tragedy into a Soviet ballet. To attend the event, RVSP to skey@pacificsymphony.org.

The concert is part of Shakespeare Reimagined, a semester-long festival in partnership with Chapman University, celebrating Shakespeare through music, film, theatre and dance. Click Here for more information.

Playbox Theatre Joins Santa Monica Playhouse for Hands Across the Sea Festival

Playbox TheatreSanta Monica Playhouse will host its annual Hands Across the Sea FREE Festival of Theatre October 26-30, featuring Playbox Theatre, its sister theatre company from the U.K., which will include a number of shows for children and adults.

In honor of Shakespeare’s 450 birthday this year, the festival will feature four theatrical events inspired by the Bard: a clown’s staging of The Comedy of Errors; Shakespeare’s Wronged Women, a powerful rant based on the female personas throughout Shakespeare’s plays; MustardSeed’s Magical Mayhem, an interactive riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream for children (and their grown-ups!); and Youth’s a Stuff Will Not Endure, a community-involved city-wide character parade, bringing audience members of many generations together in the life-affirming, community-building magic of a live multi-national theatre experience. Playbox Theatre, the Playhouse’s sister company, will perform October 26 – 30, 2014.  More

Symphony in the Glen and ISC Offer Free Performance of Music and Shakespeare

Symphony in the Glenn
The Symphony In The Glen Wind Ensemble returns to Griffith Park September 6th for a special concert presentation of A Merry Wind Blows, an evening of Shakespeare and music produced in association with Independent Shakespeare Co. This FREE magical evening of entertainment features an inspired pairing of Shakespeare’s words with the music of Prokofiev, Resphighi, Faure, Sibelius, Stravinski, Holst, Parry, Sir William Walton and Cole Porter. Television and film composer Arthur B. Rubinstein leads the Wind Ensemble in an all new program with Shakespeare selections read by ISC members Melissa Chalsma, Joseph Culliton, Julia Aks and Thomas Ehas.

Seating is picnic-style so bring a blanket or low-backed chairs. There will be a few snack items, beverages and water for sale but feel free to bring a picnic to enjoy before the show. Don’t forget your canned food donation. Every food donation feeds a hungry child. Though the days are warm, evenings can get cool in the park so bring a sweater as well.

A MERRY WIND BLOWS
September 6, 2014
7:00 pm
The Old Zoo in Griffith Park
4730 Crystal Springs Drive (follow signs to the Old Zoo)
Los Angeles, CA 90027
www.symphonyintheglen.org

File This One Under Adorable – O BABY MINE: SING A SONG OF SHAKESPEARE

O Baby Mine134 West has produced a terrific album of music for parents and children of all ages, O Baby Mine: Sing A Song of Shakespeare. Comprised of songs from and inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, the CD and digital downloads release on Tuesday, August 12.

O Baby Mine: Sing A Song of Shakespeare is for anyone who wants to share their love of theatre, music, and the Bard and his language with their families. Featuring eight songwriters and 14 tracks, Shakespeare plays represented include Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Macbeth, and King Lear.

The composers are Raymond Bokhour, Sean Galuszka, Rob Kendt, Susan Lambert, Cinco Paul, Madison Scheckel, William Shakespeare, and David Tobocman. The project was conceived by Susan Lambert, who also acts as executive producer. The CD is produced, mixed, and engineered by Rob Kendt, with additional mixing by Matt North, mastering by Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering, and art direction and design by Chad Calvert/Muse of Fire Creative.

Said producers Lambert and Kendt, “This album began as a way to introduce the wonder of Shakespeare to our kids, but it quickly took on a life of its own. Music flows throughout Shakespeare’s work: the rhythm and melody of his language can really make you want to sing and dance … and listen.”

Track List:

Up and Down
Shakespeare Said It First
There Are Bees
O Baby Mine (Daddy version)
Witches’ Song
Who Is Sylvia?
Nightingale’s Lullaby
Sigh No More
Do You Think You Have A Twin?
Oh Father
In Springtime
O Baby Mine (Mommy version)
Out, Out, Brief Candle
We Two Alone

You can preview the tracks, order the CD and find download options at www.obabyminemusic.com. For more information, visit www.134west.biz.

Burbank Chorale Celebrates Shakespeare with “If Music be the Food of Love…”

If William Shakespeare was alive today he would be 450 years old on April 26, 2014. In celebration of his contributions to literature and the theatre, many local companies will be presenting special performances making April a great month for you to get out and enjoy what the city has to offer. Music lovers – this one’s for you – as The Burbank Chorale presents its spring concert “If Music Be The Food of Love…” on April 26.

Burbank Chorale 2014

For more information, visit the Burbank Chorale’s Facebook page Here.

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