Wherefore art thou?Maria? U Lyric Ensemble showcases works inspired by Shakespeare

By By Davey Davis

By Davey Davis

It’s reasonable to assume that William Shakespeare didn’t have Puerto Rican immigrants in mind when he wrote “Romeo and Juliet,” but that didn’t stop Leonard Bernstein from tearing up Broadway with “West Side Story.”

Such is the premise of “Shakespeare Sings,” a U Lyric Opera Ensemble production that celebrates diverse vocal works inspired by the writings of Shakespeare.

The concert will be performed Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Libby Gardner Hall. “Shakespeare Sings” is not a full-production opera but instead a compilation of short scenes with piano accompaniment and no costumes.

Robert Breault, director of opera for the U’s School of Music, said he is certain this style will be enjoyed.

“You’ll hear opera in a manner which you’ll never forget. No mics, no set to hide in, just pure voice and gimmickless acting and staging. You’ll see and hear young singing actors at their essential level,” he said.

The production holds an array of pieces spanning 300 years of musical history, from the lusty, operatic German of Franz Schubert’s “An Silvia” to Henry Purcell’s solemn, gothic and a cappella “If Music Be the Food Of Love.”

Too classical, you say?

“Shakespeare Sings” also features pieces from the musicals of Cole Porter and Bernstein, “Kiss Me Kate” and “West Side Story.” Listeners experience “Taming of the Shrew,” “Henry IV,” “Twelfth Night” and others as the ensemble shows off the scope of Shakespearean influence.

The finale of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Falstaff” is a contrast to the premier of Gordon Getty’s not-yet-published “Plump Jack,” a modern piece composed entirely of unadulterated lines from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and complex, movable diminished chords.

Both pieces feature the lovable character Sir John Falstaff, who opens and closes the performance.

Breault compares “Shakespeare Sings” to a band unplugged and expects the concert to appeal to every taste.

“It’s an amazing show to see and hear, and the thread that binds it all is the greatest writer of Western words. There is simply something for everyone, and so I hope to see everyone there,” he said.

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