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Verdi's Shakespeare

Men of the Theater

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A dazzling study of the operas Verdi adapted from Shakespeare- and a spellbinding account of their creation.
In Verdi's Shakespeare, Pulitzer Prize winner and lifelong opera devotee Garry Wills explores the writing and staging of Verdi's three triumphant Shakespearian operas: Macbeth, Othello, and Falstaff. An Italian composer who couldn't read a word of English but adored Shakespeare, Verdi devoted himself to operatic productions that authentically incorporated the playwright's texts. Wills delves into the fast-paced worlds of these men of the theater, focusing on the intense working relationships both Shakespeare and Verdi had with the performers and producers of their works. We see Verdi study the Shakespearean dramaturgy as he obsessively corresponds with his chosen librettists, handpicks the singers he feels are best- suited to the roles, and coaches them intensely.

With fascinating portraits of these artistic giants and their entourages, sharp insights into music and theater, and telling historical details, Verdi's Shakespeare re-creates the conditions that allowed Verdi to complete his masterworks and illuminates the very nature of artistic creation.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 18, 2011 – Opera aficionados will delight in Wills's (Outside Looking In) thoughtful, deeply rehearsed essays on Verdi's treatment of Shakespeare's plays. Both the Elizabethan playwright and the 19th-century composer were steeped in the language and logistics of the theater, and both tailored their work for the performers at hand. Shakespeare created his characters in Macbeth, Othello, and The Merry Wives of Windsor especially for leading actor Richard Burbage, who doubled for parts in the same play, as all the players did, with boy actors assuming the women's roles; Verdi partly chose to do Macbeth because it required a strong baritone, which the Florence Teatro della Pergola had, rather than a leading tenor, which the theater did not. Wills looks closely at how each director handled scenes of witchcraft—more challenging for the skeptical 19th-century audience—and Verdi's neat, dramatic compression of events in the plays. Verdi employed for the operas Otello and Falstaff his masterly, much younger librettist, Arrigo Boito, whose boldness and vibrant ideas "reinvigorated the Maestro's creative force." Their collaboration towered over Rossini's gold-standard Otello, notes Wills, especially in beginning the opera with an apocalyptic storm and creating for Otello and Desdemona a love duet, and in later fashioning an inventive composite Falstaff as a "a force of nature." Wills's detailed depictions of the operas' subtleties, sublimely rendered for opera fans—perhaps tedious for other readers—endlessly elucidate the work of these "creative volcanoes."
Verdi's Shakespeare
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Music
  • Published: Oct 13, 2011
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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