Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Shakespeare: As You Like It
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 the plays of William Shakespeare. Often these were 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 the Bard, 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 in November, 2016 with Hamlet and in February of this year with Measure for Measure. Poets have always loved the Springtime of the year. It's the season of love and merriment, when Youth reigns supreme.
It's the season for romantic comedy, perhaps the greatest example of which is As You Like It (1599). The only character in the play who is out of step with the comedy is the cynic Jaques, who delivers the "Seven Ages of Man" speech. I invite you to come away to the Forest of Arden, where you will meet the charming boy/girl Rosalind and join the feast with the Duke and his huntsman under the greenwood tree. I broadcast As You Like It way back on Sunday, July 30, 1989, making use of the original Argo LP release.