University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Shakespeare: All's Well That Ends Well

01/26/2020 1:00 pm
01/26/2020 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Spoken word presentations have always been part of my broad-spectrum concept of lyric theater programming. I have broadcast recordings of many of William Shakespeare's plays. In the more distant past 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 of the four hundredth anniversary of his birth. It was an audio project of historic significance equal to Decca's series of Wagner's Ring cycle of operas recorded 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 some of the best Shakespearian actors and actresses that Britain possessed. 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 Decca/Argo boxed set.

I draw upon its discs again this Sunday as I did most recently on Sunday, June 30th of last year with broadcast of the early blood'n'guts tragedy of revenge, Titus Andronicus (1589?). There are three so-called "problem comedies" or "unpleasant plays" in the Shakespeare canon. One of them, Measure for Measure (1604) I broadcast on Sunday, February 26, 2017. Another one of these un-comic comedies is All's Well That Ends Well (1602?). It has never been a popular play; yet it is full of what we expect from the Bard: insight, wisdom and lovely poetic speech.