WEBINAR RECORDING | “Shakespeare’s Made in Italy Theater”
Presented by Dr. Eric Nicholson
With Additional Commentary by Dr. Rocky Ruggiero
Teaming up with Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins in the 1950s, the late great Stephen Sondheim brought Romeo and Juliet to Manhattan’s West Side, and made the play matter more urgently than ever. For his part, Shakespeare himself had brought the two young star-crossed lovers and their tragic tale onto the 1590s London stage from various Italian sources. These are well-known stories, but many native English speakers still need to learn that Shakespeare’s theater can be called a “Made in Italy” one. For as that famous opera composer and ardent Shakespeare admirer Giuseppe Verdi understood very well, Italy, Italian literature, and Italian culture are vital for the English playwright’s drama. They are so vital that even his only play set in the England of his own time—The Merry Wives of Windsor—depends on Italian sources and role models to drive its plot and create its comic effects. Fittingly, it inspired Verdi’s final and most musically daring opera, Falstaff.
My illustrated presentation will focus on this farcical Windsor comedy featuring Falstaff the would-be lover, comparing and contrasting it to the more overtly Italian-style Much Ado About Nothing, set in Sicily (fun fact: more than half of Shakespeare’s plays have Italian settings). The use of custom-made masks and live performance samples—with a special guest appearance—will help explain such matters as Shakespeare’s response to Castiglione’s immensely popular Book of the Courtier, his adaptations and transformations of the dynamic “commedia dell’arte,” and his engagement with the key innovation of early modern European professional theater: the emergence of the actress-diva. On this note, I highlight not only Falstaff, the Merry Wives, Benedick, and Beatrice, but another dashing “Capitano” and charismatic “Prima Donna” dynamic duo who inspired Verdi, namely Othello and Desdemona. Thanks to these characters, we also will virtually visit the most admired, glamorous, and indeed mythical of all Italian Renaissance cities, Venice.
The webinar recording consists of a 45-minute lecture.
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- Lectures 1
- Quizzes 0
- Duration 50 minutes
- Skill level All levels
- Students 0
- Assessments Yes