What Happens When You Combine the LA Phil, Shakespeare and Tchaikovsky?

Gustavo Dudamel
Updated: The Los Angeles Philharmonic has an exciting concert coming up at Walt Disney Concert Hall featuring a unique program specifically for you music-loving Shakespeare enthusiasts. It’s Shakespeare Fantasy, a special concert presentation that is part of the LA Phil’s  TCHAIKOVSKYFEST on Wed. Feb 26th, with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The program will include music inspired by Tchaikovsky’s love for Shakespeare, including his Hamlet Fantasy Overture, The Tempest Fantasy Overture, and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.

Here’s the best part. The performance will also feature Orlando Bloom, Joe Morton and Condola Rashad presenting key scenes from Shakespeare’s plays before each piece. Bloom and Rashad recently played the title characters in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway, and reprise their roles here for one night only. The all-star cast is directed by Kate Burton, Tony-nominated stage and screen actress and daughter of the late Richard Burton.

This really is a one-of-a-kind event as Dudamel and the LA Phil celebrate the English playwright whom Tchaikovsky adored; so much so that the composer once thought of learning English just to read the plays in their original language.

You can also join renowned music scholar Joseph Horowitz at 7:00 pm for a FREE Upbeat Live pre-concert talk that will provide historical and cultural context for the concert.

Wed. February 26, 2014 – 8:00 pm
Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets: www.LAPhil.com/Shakespeare

Thank You Mr. Shakespeare

I came across this lovely song on YouTube by an artist named Claire Jordan. Just a girl and her guitar…and a perfect way to say thank you, William Shakespeare, and thank you friends of Shakespeare in LA. Time for a little holiday hiatus. Safe travels.

Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll see you in December.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”
~William Shakespeare

Symphony in the Glen and Independent Shakespeare Co. in Griffith Park

Touches of Sweet Harmony ISC

Symphony in the Glen and Independent Shakespeare Co. team up to present Touches of Sweet Harmony, a unique performance pairing classical music performed by the Symphony In The Glen orchestra with scenes and songs performed by members of Independent Shakespeare Co.

The concert features works by Prokofiev, Resphighi, Faure, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Holst, Shostakovich, Parry and Sir William Walton interwoven with Shakespeare text performed by ISC members Thomas Ehas, Joseph Culliton and Claudia de Vasco. The performance is Saturday, September 7 at 7:00 pm and is FREE. Reservations are not required. Remember to bring blankets or low-backed lawn chairs to sit on, and a sweater if the night air gets chilly. For more information, please visit www.symphonyintheglen.org.

Verdi’s MACBETH To Close Independent Opera Company’s Inaugural Season

Macbeth OperaIndependent Opera Company concludes its first season with Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, an operatic representation of Shakespeare’s epic drama of mysticism and tyranny starring acclaimed baritones, Jay Stephenson and Michael Blinco double-cast in the title role of Macbeth. There will be 5 performances only, Saturday June 15 – Sunday June 30.

Verdi brings the audience into a piece that is beautiful in its eeriness. Macbeth is a very sophisticated work with many surprising and unexpected harmonies and rhythms. It seems very unconventional and predicts a lot of musical solutions presented at Verdi’s more familiar later works, such as La Traviata, plus it leads to his most mature works like Otello and Falstaff (also based on Shakespeare plays).  More

Play On! at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

Play On

The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles invites you to Play On: The event, a sharing of original poetry and music inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth on Saturday January 26. The performance will take place at 7:30 pm in the SCLA Studio located at 1238 W. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026. The young writers of Play On! put their own spin on Shakespeare’s themes of love, betrayal, devastating decisions, and spooky situations based upon their study of Macbeth in this one-night event. It just might change the way you think about Shakespeare.

Play On! is SCLA’s unique after school program that combines music education, songwriting, sound design, poetry, dramatic writing and wage-paying jobs for youth in our community. Participants in Play On! study one of Shakespeare’s plays and create a collection of original songs, poems and soliloquies inspired by the source material. During the 10-week session, youth gain valuable workplace skills. They also get the rare opportunity to be mentored by industry professionals in songwriting, poetry, sound engineering or sound production.

Admission is FREE for this casual evening but reservations are recommended and the program gratefully accepts donations. For more information or to make a reservation call (213) 481-2273 x 13 or email marcela@shakespearecenter.org.

Romeo & Juliet: A Puppet Musical Video Update

Project Update #2 from Dan Ring: Five Days to Go!

Hi everyone,

We’re in the final stretch and a little over halfway to our funding goal. Thanks to everyone who has supported the project up to this point. So far we’ve received pledges from far and wide, including the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival! www.ncshakes.org

We still have a ways to go in reaching our goal, so I’ve opened up some more available rewards. For each pledge level, there are now available slots, including for those who live in LA and would like to visit the shoot during our weekend of filming. Or, if you’d like to opt for the level where you receive a personalized video featuring some puppets and myself gushing over how awesome and generous you are, you have a chance to snag one of those as well!

For my current backers, thanks so much for pledging! Please consider sharing the project with your friends, and you are more than welcome to add to your pledge. With any luck, we’ll reach our goal and get this video produced and posted for all to enjoy! Here’s the link for more information. http://kck.st/Wg3AGd


Romeo & Juliet: A Puppet Music Video – What?!

My colleague Cindy Marie Jenkins had an interesting guest on her popular Funding Fridays webseries today. Dan Ring talks about his new project, Romeo & Juliet: A Puppet Musical Video, a music video designed to introduce kids to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet through the world of live-action puppetry. I love the idea and I think you will too.

One of the cool things is that Dan is going to post the finished video online and it will be available for free to anyone who wants to use it. Great educational possibilities there for teachers as a teaching tool. He is also partnering with Swazzle, who will be providing puppets, puppeteers, design, and production support. Dan is looking to raise $3000 on Kickstarter and is already halfway to his goal. Check out two of his puppet buddies in the video below and you’ll get an idea of the flavor of the project. You can also read more about it there as well. Let’s help him reach his goal!


And just so you know, Cindy always has interesting guests on her Funding Fridays shows. If you’re feeling philanthropic, or just interested in seeing the great projects people are putting together, put it on your weekly calendar. Keep up on what’s happening on her YouTube Channel HERE. Happy Weekend!

A New Year’s Wassail Wish for You

Here’s to you as we celebrate with a toast to “Good Health” in the New Year and a lively rendition of the traditional Gloucestershire Wassail. The word ‘wassail’ comes from an Anglo-Saxon toast, “be thou healthy (hale)”, to which the correct response was a hearty “drink healthy”. Shakespeare makes references to it in several of his plays like Antony and Cleopatra where Octavius Caesar, speaking to Antony disapprovingly says, “Antony, Leave thy lascivious wassails.”

Wassailing originally involved going door to door singing carols, however it could just as easily become less cheery when the carollers requested alms and drink or, after having received their drink, then became rowdy. This is the meaning of wassail most often found in Shakespeare, as in Hamlet’s speech:

“The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.”

It is also with drink and “wassail” that Lady Macbeth plans to confuse the guards around King Duncan, thus allowing her husband a chance to kill the king. Other wassail references include Falstaff, who compares his portly stature to that of a “wassail candle,” since he, like candles, is made of “tallow”. In Love’s Labour’s Lost Berowne, last seen talking about Christmas, also describes Boyet as “wit’s peddler, and retails his wares / At wakes, and wassails, meetings, markets, fairs”.

While the drink known as “wassail” at modern holiday feasts is often made of mulled cider, historical wassail was completely different, more likely to be mulled beer. Sugar, ale, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon would be placed in a bowl, heated, and topped with slices of toast as sops, hence the origin of our expression “to propose a toast.” By the way, those who ended up with toast in their cup were considered the lucky ones! Here’s the first stanza of the traditional carol, which dates back to the Middle Ages:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And so to all of you as we begin 2012, “Be thou healthy, wealthy, happy and wise, with your cup overflowing with goodness and pies.”

Sonnet 29 set to music by composer Georgia Stitt

One of my favorite musical theatre composers, Georgia Stitt, has a new album that is getting ready to drop November 29th. The thirteen tracks on My Lifelong Love are really something special and feature many of Broadway’s best and brightest singers. I was looking over the track list and was excited to see that track # 4 entitled “Sonnet 29,” is a composition that marries Stitt’s heartfelt music with the text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29. You’ve got to check it out. Sung by Brian D’Arcy James, it is absolutely gorgeous. You can listen to a clip of the song Here and you can also pre-order the CD at the link as well if, like me, you find that her beautiful melodies and thought-provoking lyrics (by some well-chosen lyricists in addition to the Bard) make your own heart sing. 

Sonnet 29
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,  
I all alone beweep my outcast state,  
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,  
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,  
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,          
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,  
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,  
With what I most enjoy contented least;  
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,  
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,   
Like to the lark at break of day arising  
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;  
    For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings  
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 

My Lifelong Love is produced by Georgia Stitt, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andy Waterman at Umbrella Media Studio, LA and features Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Anika Noni Rose, Shoshana Bean, Brian D’Arcy James, Susan Egan, Heidi Blickenstaff, Laura Osnes, Christopher Jackson, Michael Arden, Jessica Molaskey, John Pizzarelli, Kate Baldwin and Michael McElroy. All arrangements and musical direction are by Georgia Stitt. For more information about the composer visit www.georgiastitt.com.

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