University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Shakespeare: Love's Labours Lost

05/06/2018 1:00 pm
05/06/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Spoken word presentations have alwas been part of my broad spectrum concept of lyric theater programming. I have broadcast recordings of many of the plays of William Shakespeare. Often these were on early stereo Decca/Argo LPs. These studio recordings, made between 1957 and 1964, were part of Decca's series of the complete recorded works of Shakespeare, issued in commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of his birth. It was an audio project of historic significance equal to Decca's first-ever complete studio recording series of Wagner's Ring cycle of operas made during the same period with Georg Solti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and a singing cast of some of the greatest operatic voices of the mid twentieth century.

Decca's Shakespeare project engaged renowned director George Rylands and the Marlowe Dramatic Society of Cambridge University, plus other "professional players" who were the best Shakespearean actors and actresses that Britain had to offer. Many of them remain famous names even now in the twenty first century. In 2016 the entire Decca Shakespeare series--all thirty seven plays, the sonnets and narrative poems--was reissued on compact disc to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the playwright's death. I have acquired the 100 CD boxed set, and I draw upon its discs again this Sunday as I did most recently on November 19th of last year with my broadcast of the tragic history play, Richard III.

Today I offer you an early comedy that could date as far back as 1591 in its earliest scripted form: Love's Labours Lost. John Dover Wilson, the editor of the New Shakespeare Edition of the play recorded here, along with other Shakespeare scholars, suspects that it was written as a subtle satire on certain important figures in the court of Good Queen Bess. The play was presented before her at Christmas of 1597. The courtly sendup also presents us with a cavalcade of notables in circulation in Shakespeare's London. The character called Biron/Berowne could be seen as a stand-in for the Bard himself. Shakespeare is the soul of wit, but before him there were the "University Wits," and their ingenious wordplay reverberates in the mouths of courtiers in this "Pleasant Conceited Comedie," or so it was styled on the title page of the 1598 printed text.